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1922 - 2017
BELL, Barbara Retired Harvard Astronomer Passed away at the age of 95 on September 25th, 2017. Barbara was born on April 1, 1922, as beloved daughter of the late George Irving Bell Sr. and Hazel Seerley Bell of Evanston, IL. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1944 and received a PhD in Astronomy from Harvard University in 1951, under Donald Menzel. Her thesis research concerned lines of silicon in the solar spectrum. For more than 50 years she worked at the Harvard College Observatory, now the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Working with Donald Menzel, Harold Glazer, Giancarlo Noci and Robert Kurucz, her research dealt primarily with observations of solar phenomena. Barbara had a keen interest in history and travel, and in her later years traveled to all corners of the globe. She developed a particular interest in the ancient history of Egypt. Her research expanded to include the variations in the floods of the Nile for which she sought to connect to solar fluctuations. Using ancient accounts, she was first to propose a linkage between prolonged drought and the societal collapse she called "The First Dark Age in Egypt" in the early 1970s. She published several journal articles on the connection of climate fluctuations to the fall of Egyptian dynasties which have been widely cited in the literature. Loved by all who knew her, Barbara had a sharp and curious mind, a kind heart and a cheerful disposition. Intensely interested in her family and those around her, she donated generously her entire life to Harvard University and numerous charities. A beloved sister and aunt, Barbara is preceded in death by her brother George I. Bell (Harvard 1947) who passed away in 2000. Barbara is survived by George's wife, Virginia (Ginny) Bell of Los Alamos, New Mexico, her niece Carolyn S. Bell of Santa Fe, New Mexico, her nephew George I. Bell, Jr. and his wife Esther, of Boulder Colorado, and her five grandnieces and grandnephews: Kaitlin M. Prince of New York, NY, Austin W. Prince of Salt Lake City, UT, Derek T. Prince, Allison B. Bell and Henry G. Bell of Boulder, CO. Following her wishes, Barbara will be laid to rest next to her parents in Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, IL.
Published in The Boston Globe on Oct. 8, 2017
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