The term 'amateur' - was Re: terminology: flare, alt/az, vulgar,

Philip Chien (
Sun, 7 Jun 1998 20:09:39 -0400

Missed this last time around


>> > From: (Philip Chien)
>> > BTW - since such an authorotative source as "Sky & Telescope" (who some
>> > SeeSat subscribers have been reading since before I was born)
>I started reading it in the mid 50s.  When were you born?

195(mumble, mumble).  Suffice to say you were reading S&T before I was
born.  Sheesh - did they have satellites back then?  ;-)

Walter Nissen wrote:

>>  And don't get me started on
>> their insistent use of the astronomical slur, a-mateur.
>I really don't want to get you started, but how is that a slur?
>What to use instead?
>I always took the difference to be compensation. Amateurs do something
>for love, not money.  Professionals get paid.

Agreed.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with the term 'amateur'.  You can
be the finest person in your field and still an amateur.  I would certainly
argue that many of the subscribers to seesat are the finest satellite
observers in the world, but they remain amateurs until they get paid.

Some of the best astronomers are amateurs (David Levy and Reber come to
mind).  And in many fields folks do something just for the sheer love of
doing it without expecting to get paid.

A novice, on the other hand, is somebody who's just getting started in any
activity (which also includes many Seesat subscribers).

Perhaps the most abuse of the term is with the Olympics athletes who were
always supposed to be amateurs, doing it for the pleasure of doing it.
(actually this was hardly for altruistic reasons, it was primarily to limit
participation to the upper classes who could afford the time to train, but
that's besides the point.)  Now Olympic athletes are highly paid through
various loopholes even though technically they still have their "amateur"

of course there's always a gray line between amateur and professional.
Certainly I get paid for much of my satellite observations, or information
derived from my observations, but I still enjoy viewing satellites and
determining the behavior of satellites just for pleasure even when I'm not
getting paid.  So I guess I qualify as both a professional and an amateur
when it comes to satellite observations.

Philip Chien, KC4YER
Earth News
world (in)famous writer, science fiction fan, ham radio operator,
all-around nice guy, etc.