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Astronomer, PhD in Astronomy from the University of Washington

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Clemson University

Born in Toledo, Ohio at Flower Hospital, Phil Flower became interested in astronomy through reading science fiction. He read all of the scifi books at the Central Branch of the Toledo Library System at an early age. The library was only a block away from his parents’ home on Kosciusko Street, just off Lagrange Street. By the time he was in high school he had purchased an Edmunds Scientific 3-inch reflecting telescope and surveyed the heavens from his backyard.

Although he went to a vocational high school, Macomber Vocational High School, and majored in electronics, he took a college prep option provided by the school. He then enrolled as physics major at the University of Toledo. His tuition was paid by US Army ROTC, summer employment, and parents’ help. He was a planetarium operator at the Ritter Planetarium and help with an observational program on Be stars using the university's 40-inch Ritter Telescope under the guidance of Dr. Adolf Witt.

He was accepted to the University of Washington’s astronomy graduate program in 1970 and studied Magellanic Cloud star clusters under Dr. Paul Hodge and the evolution of stars under Dr. Bohdan Paczinski at the Polish Academy of Sciences. His research involved several observing runs at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile and an 18-month stay at the Polish Academy of Science in Warsaw Poland.

After receiving his PhD, he held a 2-year postdoc position at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, University of Colorado in Boulder under Dr. John Cox. From there he obtained a position as an assistant professor the Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina and has been there for over 30 years. He began his career there teaching introductory astronomy, graduate astronomy, and continuing his research on star clusters and the evolution of stars. In 1990 he published his first textbook with West Publishing, Understanding the Universe. In 2000, he republished the book in two volumes with Pearson Custom Publishing. Since 2004 he has been active in on-line learning and distance learning and teaches introductory astronomy as a distance learning course to over 500 students a year.

He has published volume one of his new eBook astronomy textbook, Beyond the Sky. Currently he is working on volume two.