Joseph M. Chamberlain, 88, who helped advance astronomical education and entertainment by leading planetariums in New York and Chicago into a new era of technology, instruction, and visitor experience, died Nov. 28 in Peoria, Ill. His death was announced by the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.
Mr. Chamberlain's love was sailing, and he taught celestial-navigation courses during his 16 years at the Hayden Planetarium in Manhattan, 12 of which he spent as its leader, and during his 23 years as director and president at the Adler. His larger impact at both places was to build new facilities, buy new projectors to make tiny stars brighter and comets more dashing, hire more professional astronomers, strengthen and increase the number of special exhibitions, and greatly expand educational offerings.
Joseph Miles Chamberlain was born in Peoria on July 26, 1923, and remained there after graduating from high school to enroll at Bradley University. But he left the college during World War II to become a cadet at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., where he earned a bachelor's degree. He then served on transport ships in the Atlantic and the Pacific before returning to Bradley to finish a second bachelor's degree.
Returning to New York, he taught nautical science at the Merchant Marine Academy and earned master's and doctorate degrees from Teacher's College of Columbia University, concentrating on meteorology and astronomy. He gave guest lectures at the Hayden Planetarium.
The Hayden hired him as an assistant curator in 1952. He became Hayden's chairman in 1956 and an assistant director of the American Museum of Natural History, Hayden's parent, in 1964.
Mr. Chamberlain arrived in Chicago when oversight of the Adler was shifting from the city to a private board. He replaced fraying technology, charged admission for the first time, and installed a telescope through which the public could directly view the heavens. He got the Adler accredited as a museum.
He also occasionally invited people into the planetarium's main dome to listen to him recite poetry from memory. - N.Y. Times News Service