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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS
FIGURE B.1 The growth in the number of U.S. astronomers can be inferred from the membership of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), which has increased by 42 percent in the last decade. The numbers plotted were obtained by multiplying the AAS membership by 0.82 to account for foreign members in the AAS and other small corrections.
The number of doctoral degrees awarded for dissertations in astronomical topics over the last decade has averaged 125 degrees per year. However, the great scientific interest of astronomy has resulted in a flow of new people into the AAS, approximately 250 per year, that is about twice the rate of the production of PhDs in astronomy and astrophysics. Roughly half the people entering astronomy in the past decade were trained in a different science and subsequently migrated into the field.
Astronomy is being carried out by a young community. In 1987, the median age of U.S. astronomers was 42, the youngest of the 10 professional societies sampled by the AIP. Half the U.S. astronomers are currently between the ages of 35 and 50.
The percentage of women in astronomy has grown by almost 50 percent during the last decade, from 8 percent to 12 percent. Examination of the graduate student population shows signs of a slow, continuing growth in the number of women in astronomy. Recent surveys show that 12 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded by astronomy departments in 1987 went to women and that 20 percent of the total astronomy graduate population is female. These fractions are similar to or higher than the female membership of the AAS and suggest that the percentage of women in astronomy will continue to rise slowly during the 1990s.
Despite active recruitment efforts at universities and by NASA, ethnic