CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Not many people can say they have an asteroid named after them, but former MassWildlife Assistant Director Tom French has been recognized for his work in the Commonwealth with an asteroid now named after him.

The Paris-based International Astronomical Union (IAU) has officially named minor planet 1991 PN2 as “(20010) Tomfrench.” The asteroid is one to three miles in diameter that was discovered on August 2, 1991 by the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, Chile. The asteroid takes 3.9 years to fully orbit the Sun and it is currently about 480 million kilometers away from Earth, near the Taurus constellation.

“This is a completely unexpected and humbling honor,” says Dr. French. “I hope that recognizing me with this honor is a validation of how important it is for all of us to help conserve the health and natural diversity of our world.”

Dr. French has been recognized for his work in wildlife restoration and conservation, especially for Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles in the Commonwealth. 22News has interviewed him in the past during the annual Peregrine Falcon banding at Monarch Place.

Thomas W. French (b. 1950), a biologist and former assistant director of MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, led the successful reintroduction of peregrine falcons and bald eagles in Massachusetts after their native populations were wiped out due to extensive use of the insecticide DDT from the 1940s to 1972.

Citation published in the IAU’s WGSBN Bulletin on July 2, 2023

Dr. French oversaw field research, habitat restoration and management, rare species restoration, permitting the possession of wildlife for research and education, data management, and regulatory reviews of proposed projects under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act during his time with MassWildlife.

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