William K. Hartmann enjoys painting scenes from the Sonoran Desert.
William K. Hartmann enjoys painting scenes from the Sonoran Desert.

William Kenneth Hartmann, noted planetary scientist, artist, author, and writer, is truly the quintessential Renaissance man. Not only is he expert on our solar system as it was billions of years ago, but he’s also studied important and colorful happenings on 16th century Earth.

Hartmann will demonstrate his second love—early Southwest history—in a 3:30 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 29) Arizona Senior Academy discussion of his book, “Searching for Golden Empires.” The book recounts the efforts of Spanish conquistadors to find the mythical “Seven Cities of Cíbola,” cities of gold thought to be in Arizona or somewhere in what is now the American Southwest.

His first love, of course, is planetary science. He was the first guy to argue convincingly that the Earth acquired both its moon and its 23.5° tilt due to collision with a gigantic space rock.

Hartmann worked on the Mariner 9 Mars mapping project and the Mars Global Surveyor imaging team, and he wrote a book that’s looking more and more useful these days: “A Traveler’s Guide to Mars.” He was the first recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication on Planetary Science from the American Astronomical Society.

“Searching for Golden Empires” recounts how crazily competitive conquistadores, like Coronado and Cortez, careened from Cuba to Ciudad de México to Colorado conquering civilizations and combing caves to find Cíbola and corral cartloads of gold.

Publisher’s Weekly says “This remarkable new study fleshes out both explorers and natives, revealing nearly forgotten fluctuations of power and persuasion. Detailed archaeological evidence and meticulous scholarly investigations make this book especially valuable in academia, but Hartmann’s joyful Indiana Jones-esque attitude will both educate general readers and keep them rapt.”

Hartmann is currently a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.

Written by Stan Davis, Academy Village Volunteer[

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Scientist’s Second Love: Southwest History: October 2015
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