Hilton A. Lewis Named Interim Keck Observatory Director

Kamuela, Hawaii – The Board of Directors of the W. M. Keck Observatory has named Hilton A. Lewis Interim Director of the observatory, which operates the two Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Lewis has been an integral part of the development team for the observatory since its inception in the 1980s, and has served as its Deputy Director since 2002. 

As Director, Lewis will work closely with the staff, partner institutions and scientists to ensure the continued success of the Keck Observatory and foster the development of its scientific capabilities and overall productivity.

“The Board deeply appreciates Hilton’s willingness to step up and agree to lead the Observatory. We have great confidence that under his leadership the Keck Observatory will continue at its current high level of performance with no interruption of new and exciting scientific breakthroughs.” said Dr. Edward M. Stolper, Chair of the W. M. Keck Observatory Board of Directors and Interim President of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

 “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the staff of this truly remarkable institution and serve the astronomers who use Keck Observatory,” said Lewis. “I am fully committed to sustaining the observatory’s world-leading scientific productivity by building upon my relationships with our highly qualified professional staff, the observatory’s academic and funding partners and the wider astronomy and science community.”

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 has held progressively more responsible leadership positions, ranging from software development to management of the engineering division to his most recent role overseeing the full range of technical activities required to operate this world-leading research facility and develop new instrumentation.

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.

Keck Observatory’s current director, Dr. Taft Armandroff, announced in January his resignation from Keck to become the Director of the McDonald Observatory, a research unit of the University of Texas at Austin, as well as to take up a Professorship in the Astronomy Department at the University of Texas, starting June 1st, 2014.

A search committee is now being formed to appoint a permanent Director.

The W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes are located on the summit of Mauna Kea, with its headquarters located in Kamuela. The 120 full-time staff has an excellent track record of meeting the Observatory’s commitment to making the powerful telescopes and their instrumentation available for research purposes every night. The Keck Observatory is owned by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California (UC). The National Space Administration Agency (NASA) is a major partner in the Observatory, which is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA; on behalf of the institutions).Astronomers not only from Caltech, UC, NASA and University of Hawaii but also from many institutions within the US (including and especially Yale) and across the world (including and especially from the Australian National University and Swinburne University of Technology) now use the two Keck telescopes.