Up in the Sky – it’s Hooveria

by Spencer Howard

With the recent advances in astronomy, there are now over 300,000 known asteroids in our solar system, though only about 16,000 have been given names. Four of them have been named to honor the humanitarian work of Herbert Hoover.

In 1920, Johann Palisa, an astronomer at the University of Vienna in Austria, discovered a new asteroid that was designated number 932. Two years later, the Academic Senate of the University announced that “As a permanent memorial of the great help rendered to the people of Austria, and in particular to the officers of the higher institutions of learning in Vienna, which was organized by Mr. Herbert Hoover the Academic Senate of the University of Vienna has named the minor planet 932 (1920 GV), ‘Hooveria.'” This dedication refers to the work of the American Relief Administration, directed by Hoover, which distributed over $42 million of food and clothing in Austria between 1919 and 1923.

In the summer of 1938, Hoover toured Europe to mark the twentieth anniversary of the end of World War I. He was awarded numerous honorary degrees and received many other expressions of gratitude in the countries he had aided during and after the war. The people of Belgium were especially grateful because Hoover’s first great humanitarian enterprise, the Commission for Relief in Belgium, had fed the entire civilian population for the duration of the war. To mark the occasion of Hoover’s visit the Royal Observatory of Belgium decided to name another asteroid in Hoover’s honor, choosing asteroid number 1363 which had been discovered by Eugene Delporte in 1935. Since the name “Hooveria” was already taken, the new asteroid was named “Herberta.”

Although “Herberta” and “Hooveria” refer to Hoover personally, two other asteroids were named to honor the humanitarian work of the American Relief Administration. An asteroid discovered in 1912 by the Russian astronomer Sergei Beljawsky, was later numbered and named 849 ARA in recognition of the aid provided during the great famine in Russia in 1922 and 1923. Another asteroid, discovered in 1915 by the Russian astronomer Grigory Neujmin, was numbered and named 916 America. It is believed that it too was named in appreciation for the help received from the American Relief Administration.

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