Arthur F. Davidsen was a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the principal professional staff of the university's Applied Physics Laboratory. His primary research interests included high-energy astrophysics and cosmology, in particular the study of galaxies, quasars, and the intergalactic medium through ultraviolet spectroscopy with space-borne telescopes.
In 1977, Davidsen used a remote-controlled, rocket-borne telescope and spectrometer launched from the White Sands Missile Range, and obtained the first ultraviolet spectrum of an object beyond the Earth's galaxy - the quasar 3C273. Davidsen was an involved member of the scientific community, serving on a variety of committees for space research, both nationally and abroad. Largely due to his efforts from 1979 to 1981, the Space Telescope Science Institute was built on the Johns Hopkins University campus, situating Johns Hopkins as a center for space research. He subsequently served from 1982 to 1990 on the Space Telescope Institute Council of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), which manages the Institute under a NASA contract, and until 1992 on the AURA Board of Directors. To promote the further development of astrophysics at JHU, Davidsen also formed the Center for Astrophysical Sciences in 1985 and served as its first director. Following the launch of the Hubble telescope in 1990, he served for two years as the first chairman of the Space Telescope Users Committee.
Professor Davidsen was the recipient of several awards, including the prestigious Helen B. Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society in 1979 and a Johns Hopkins University Presidential Citation in 1991. He authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific articles and he lectured at many of the nation's top research universities and institutes.