Who Was James Webb, The NASA Telescope's Controversial Namesake?

Since it was launched into space on Christmas 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope has been sending back incredible images of deep space. The scientific community and most of the general public have celebrated the telescope's achievements, but some have advocated changing the telescope's name.

James Webb

James Webb was born in 1906, served in the Marines, studied law and education in college, and eventually held several senior positions within the State Department in the late '40s and '50s. During this time, he was vocal about prioritizing scientific endeavor and technological progress during the Cold War, and by 1961, he was appointed by President Kennedy as the second principal administrator of the N.A.S.A. in the history of the agency. After that NASA In 1968, Webb served on several advisory boards, especially for educational facilities such as museums and universities, and even worked with the Smithsonian Institution. He died of heart disease on 27 March 1992 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Lavender Scares

Webb achieved a lot during his time in N.A.S.A. He successfully lobbied Congress to increase funding for the space program and oversaw the agency through its historic Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. For this reason the N.A.S.A. He was seen as a perfect name for the new space telescope, but he also participated in several meetings to discuss the identification and purge of gay government employees during the "Lavender Scare" of the 50s and 60s. There is no evidence that Webb himself initiated such an action, but his role in this ugly chapter in government history left a bad taste in many scientists' mouths. Activists have petitioned to change the telescope's name, but in 2021 the N.A.S.A. announced its intention to stick to its decision.

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