Astronomers & Friends

Pages of Biographies

  1. SEDS Students Explore the Universe biographies. Owen Gingerich (b. 1930) is included: the only one who is not among the mighty dead.
  2. Saint Andrews History of Mathematics Archives They have extensive biographies of mathematicians. But they include many astronomers even some people like Faraday who were neither mathematicians nor astronomers. Pretty good.
  3. Wolfgang Steinicke List of NGC/IC observers. Some small biographies and some images. Seems a very slow page to come up.
  4. Physicist Gallery of Images, Frankfurt University
Pages of Current Individual Astronomers

  1. Cowley, Andrew atomic and molecular astrophysics, spectroscopy, some courseware.
  2. Don Clayton's Photo album Don Clayton is a well known nuclear astrophysicist.
  3. Jeffery, David J. Theoretical astrophysics, radiative transfer, supernovae, free physics and astronomy courseware.

  1. Al Sufi (903--986) (possibly) Important Persian astronomer. Author of the Book of the Fixed Stars which fixed Arabic names for many of the bright stars. Credit: Medieval artist; download site .
  2. Charlene Heisler & Lisa Kewley: Happy Astronomers

  3. ../../astro/astronomer/bessel_fw_001.jpg Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784--1846).

    No its not Beethoven: all early 19th century guys looked like that.

    In 1838, Bessel became the first to measure stellar parallax.

    Bessel obtained 0.314 arcseconds for star 61 Cygni A (No-415,419).

    The modern value for 61 Cygni A stellar parallax is 0.286 arcseconds (FK-A-6).


         d(61 Cygni) = 1/(0.286 arcseconds) = 3.50 pc  .
    Stellar parallax had been sought since Greco-Roman Antiquity since it was understood that stellar parallax would be a disproof of Aristotelian cosmology and would strong evidence for a moving Earth.

    Incidentally, Bessel is also famous for his elucidation of what we now call Bessel functions: they are the darndest things.

    Credit: 19th century artist; modern credit: ?; download site St. Andrews Bessel biography

  4. ./herschel_william_001.jpg William Herschel (1738--1822)

    HERSCHEL was the greatest observational astronomer of the 18th and early 19th centuries and one of the great visionaries of astronomy. He was born Hanover, Germany, but in 1757? migrated permanently to England which was then under a Hanoverian dynasty. His initial profession was a musician, but he gradually developed into a full-time astronomer and was given a pension by George III to support his research (No-398).

    His sister CAROLINE HERSCHEL (1750--1848) assisted him and became a significant observer on her own (St. Andrews Mathematics Archive). She was also given a royal pension (No-399).

    One of HERSCHEL greatest endeavors was a program to map the universe (No-399).

    It was during the course of this program that he discovered Uranus on 1781mar13 using 6.2 inch reflector (No-399).

    ./uranus.gif Uranus, blue and extremely bland, but not as Herschel saw it. Credit NASA.

    HERSCHEL knew it was not a star, but only over the course of a few months did the astronomical community determine it to be a planet. Thus HERSCHEL was the first person recorded by history to have discovered a planet.

    HERSCHEL named the new planet it Georgium Sidus (George's Star) after King George III (No-400).

    Other astronomers thought Georgium Sidus too BRITANNIC and called it Uranus which stuck. Uranus is the Latin sky god and father of Saturn.

    HERSCHEL insisted his discovery was not accidental, but fortuitous since he was doing a sky survey, and so was searching for objects and would find them if they were there to be found????.

    HERSCHEL was also the maker of his own telescopes. The most useful of these was his 0.48 m (18.7 inch) reflector erected at Slough, England near Windsor Castle (No-400).

    ./herschel_william_002_48.jpg Herschel's 0.48 m reflector at Slough, England near Windsor Castle.

    Credit: 18th century artists; modern credit: ????; download site Wolfgang Steinicke's List of NGC/IC observers.

  5. Bob Kirshner Astronomer at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA): a former boss
  6. Brian Schmidt Leader of the High Redshift Supernova Team. An old friend from my days at CfA. An Alaskan now pretending to be an Australian.