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Dionysis Simopoulos is a famous astrophysicist and one of the most important popularizers of astrophysics in the world, with great contribution to the popularization of the universe in Greece for the last fifty years.
#science #astrophysics #astronomy #planetarium #universe
By Makis Provatas
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
His father was a forester from the village of Gryllos in the county of Ilia, his "most beloved place in the whole world" as he peculiarly says, and his mother was from Patras.
Immediately after his birth in Ioannina in 1943, his family moved to Patras and then to Kyparissia where he went to the first grade of the primary school, before returning permanently to Patras where he grew up. His maternal grandfather was the most famous florist in Patras and some of the trees he planted still exist today. His paternal grandfather worked in the construction of railways in America.
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One of the key moments in the life of Dionysis Simopoulos was the summer of 1953, when the great earthquake in the Ionian Sea shook Patras. There, he saw for the first time the voluntary help offered by the scouts to the earthquake victims and this led him to enroll along with his friends on the scouts.
For the next ten years, but actually until today, scouting along with everything he learned about the stars back then, became for him a kind of a polar star and a kind of orientation that has followed him ever since. It was during his adolescence that he first read Kipling's "If-" and Cavafy's "Ithaca" which also marked him and have followed him ever since.
With some money that his father borrowed from friends and relatives, he bought him a ship ticket to America, and gave him $250. Dionysis Simopoulos's journey began in September 1962 and lasted 12 days. In the US he studied at Louisiana State University which he chose because of his favorite book "Gone with the Wind”. "I was looking for my own Scarlett O'Hara, which I found years later in the face of my wife Karen", he reveals.
In his first two years as a student, Dionysis Simopoulos lived days of great hunger, only with water and without any food for two, three and sometimes even for four days. In January 1968, he started working at the Louisiana Arts and Science Center, where he first worked on the small planetarium and later on the large planetarium of Louisiana. Later, he served as the Director of the Planetarium for four years.
In 1972, at the age of just 29, he was proposed by Marianthi Simou, sister of national benefactor Eugenios Eugenidis, to take over the management of the Eugenides Planetarium. He served as director of the Planetarium from 1973 to 2014.
At first many colleagues of the academic status quo saw him as an outsider who took their job. However, despite the first great difficulties he faced at the beginning, he managed to reshape the Planetarium completely, influencing and inspiring thousands of children to follow Astrophysics.
Since his retirement in 2014, he has been the director emeritus of the Eugenides Planetarium and continues to work as a special advisor. Dionysis Simopoulos has received dozens of awards, honors and distinctions, including honors from the Academy of Athens and the Palmes Académiques of the French Republic. He has authored about forty books on astronomy, more than 500 screenplays for television and more than 250 screenplays – including texts and direction - of the Planetarium shows and events.