Hilton Lewis Appointed Director of W. M. Keck Observatory

Hilton Lewis Appointed Director of W. M. Keck Observatory

Credit: Ethan Tweedie Photography

Hilton Lewis, Director, W. M. Keck Observatory

Hilton Lewis Appointed Director of W. M. Keck Observatory

Credit: Andrew R. Hara

The Keck II laser is creating a "guide star" as part of its world-leading adaptive optics system. The guide star will be used to measure the distortions of Earth's atmosphere. The distortions are then removed by the AO system, providing astronomers unprecedented clarity of the cosmos.

Hilton Lewis Appointed Director of W. M. Keck Observatory

Credit: Andrew R. Hara

This image shows the superstructure of the 300-ton Keck I telescope, with the 10-meter mirror pointing away from the viewer.

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Steve Jefferson
Communications Officer
W. M. Keck Observatory

KAMUELA, Hawaii – The board of the W. M. Keck Observatory is pleased to announce that Hilton Lewis has been appointed Director of Keck Observatory, effective immediately. He has served as the Interim Director since May.

“The board is delighted that Hilton has agreed to take on this substantial responsibility,” said Ed Stolper, Chairman of the California Association for Research in Astronomy board, which manages Keck Observatory. “In his many years of service at Keck Observatory, and in the past four months as its Interim Director, Hilton has demonstrated his technical, managerial and leadership skills, and his commitment to the observatory. We are pleased that we have been able to attract such an outstanding and experienced leader to serve as our next Director”.

"We are delighted to welcome Hilton Lewis as the new Director of Keck Observatory. Hilton has a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the observatory, a thorough knowledge of its workings, and the strategic vision to keep Keck Observatory at the forefront of astronomical research," said UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal, who also serves as the vice chair of the Keck Observatory board.

Lewis joined Keck in 1986 to lead the design and development of the software systems that control the Keck Observatory’s twin 10-meter telescopes on Mauna Kea. During his 28-year tenure, 
he held progressively more responsible leadership positions, ranging from software development to management of the engineering division to overseeing the full range of technical activities as Deputy Director to his most recent role as its Interim Director.

Lewis holds a B.Sc. (cum laude) in electrical engineering from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and an MBA from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Prior to joining the W. M. Keck Observatory, he designed and developed the software for the Australian National University’s innovative 2.3-meter telescope at Siding Spring in New South Wales, Australia, one of the world’s first fully computer-controlled telescopes.

“The Keck Observatory is the premier research facility not only for the two founding institutions -- the University of California and the California Institute of Technology – but also for our partners, NASA and University of Hawaii and collaborating institutions: Yale University; Swinburne University of Technology; and the Australian National University,” said Professor Stolper who is also the Provost at Caltech. “Given the global standing of Keck Observatory, identifying its next Director was a major imperative for the CARA board.”

“I am delighted and honored to accept the appointment as the next director of the Keck Observatory,” said Lewis. “I look forward with enthusiasm to working with our staff, partners and scientific community to enable the great science that advances all humanity’s understanding of the cosmos.”

"We carried out a global and exhaustive search and recommended several compelling candidates to the CARA board." said Professor Shri Kulkarni, Director of the Caltech Optical Observatories who chaired the search committee. “Hilton was the best choice to continue Keck Observatory’s leadership in the astronomical world.”

The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes near the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectroscopy and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.