Olson first recipient of Mitte Faculty Grant for Excellence

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
November 28, 2007

Don Olson

Donald Olson, professor of physics at Texas State University-San Marcos, has been named the university’s first recipient of the Joann Cole Mitte Faculty Grant for Excellence.

The competitive $25,000 award, funded by the Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Foundation of Austin , will fund a future research project by the team of Olson and Marilynn Olson, department of English, with assistance from Russell Doescher, department of physics.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the Mitte family and the Mitte Foundation for their generous support of the university in general, and for this award in particular,” Olson said. “I will use it to support a project that will provide a valuable research experience for our students.”

Olson and the Texas State research team have made news in recent years by applying their unique brand of “Forensic Astronomy” to various historical questions and events. Earlier this year, they earned national interest when they accurately predicted the appearance of elusive moonbows in Yosemite National Park . Other investigations have linked Edvard Munch’s iconic painting, “The Scream,” with the cataclysmic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883; identified the star seen in Act 1 of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” as Tycho Brahe’s supernova of 1572; calculated a new date for the legendary Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. and the ensuing run across Greece that inspired the long-distance race that bears its name today; located the exact time and place Ansel Adams took the photograph “Autumn Moon, The High Sierra from Glacier Point” and unearthed a long-lost Adams photograph in the process; and shed light on the circumstances surrounding several paintings by the Dutch master Vincent van Gogh. 

Olson’s team plans to make its next research trip sometime during the summer of 2008, with results and an article expected to follow thereafter.