The astronomy community is mourning the passing of Riccardo Giacconi, a pioneer in space X-ray astronomy as well as the first director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates Hubble.
What made him an especially interesting man is that he initially strongly opposed Hubble, preferring the money be spent on X-ray space telescopes. When, during the writing of The Universe in a Mirror, I asked him what prompted his change of opinion that made him head of Hubble, he explained that he felt he “wasn’t being used.” The money for X-ray astronomy just wasn’t there, and rather than chase rainbows he decided to hitch his wagon to something that was certain to produce new science.
The irony is that it was Hubble’s success that probably helped generate the funding for later X-ray space telescopes, such as Chandra.,
Giacconi was a unique and brilliant man. His early X-ray instruments were built by a private commercial company he ran, not a university or NASA. In a sense he was following the classic and older American model here that was abandoned in the 1970s, and is only now beginning to see a resurgence.