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André HECK, 50, currently astronomer at Strasbourg Observatory (France), has been awarded the Édouard Mailly Prize by the Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts of Belgium.

Created in 1882, this prize is awarded every fourth year since 1886 to a Belgian or to a naturalized scientist who has significantly fostered the interest in astronomy in the country and/or made substantial progress in the field. Thus this year 1996 marks the 100th anniversary of the prize.

Heck has been first researcher at the Liège, Belgium, Institute of Astrophysics (successively in the groups of Paul Ledoux and Pol Swings) before becoming in 1977 one of the founding members of the observatory set up in Spain by the European Space Agency (ESA) to control and exploit the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) satellite (a joint venture with the US NASA and the UK SERC, now PPARC). Heck then moved in 1983 to Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory where he obtained a tenure in 1986. He has also been appointed as Director of this establishment for the period 1988-1990.

Heck got a master in mathematics and another one in education at the University of Liège in 1969. He obtained his PhD in sciences from the same University in 1975 and a DSc in 1986. The following year, he also got a degree as research director from the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg. Unconventionally he also secured degrees in management and communication techniques.

Heck's investigations relate mainly to statistical and associated methodologies, with quite a range of applications for astronomy (cosmic distance scale, classifications of stars, ...), to knowledge-based systems as well as information systems (including WWW resources), and so on. Over the last lustrum, he has been consistently advocating the development of electronic publishing for his community.

Besides his theoretical research, Heck is an accomplished observer with particular experience in photometry and spectrography from ground and space-borne instruments. He discovered a comet in 1973.

He has organized numerous international conferences and has been himself an invited speaker at many meetings round the world. He is a prolific author, an editor of reference books and an active popularizer.

More details on his career, activities, publications, and so on, can be found on the WWW at the following URL: http://www.aheck.org/.

(Strasbourg, December 1996)

Press release in French

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