Person: Shapley, Harlow
Harlow Shapley was an American astronomer who made important discoveries about the position of the sun in the galaxy.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Let us make brief notes about Harlow's siblings.
- John Shapley studied at the University of Missouri, Princeton University and the University of Vienna.
- Harlow Shapley attended elementary school in Jasper, Missouri, but his education stopped after that, aside from a brief period in a normal school where he was only permitted to take a business course.
- Harlow Shapley proved his self-study had been effective, and he completed the six years of the curriculum in just eighteen months.
- Shapley recalls in his autobiography that he decided to study the first subject in the alphabetically ordered list, but, not knowing how to pronounce archaeology, he ended up studying astronomy.
- Shapley assisted Seares in running the small campus observatory.
- Shapley was still interested in literature, the classics in particular.
- During his final year at the University of Missouri, following Oliver Kellogg's suggestion, Shapley applied for and was awarded the Thaw Fellowship at Princeton University Observatory.
- Shapley's doctoral dissertation was on the topic of eclipsing binaries.
- This stay at Mount Wilson was the most prolific era of Shapley's life.
- Among them, his most important one was his study of variable stars in globular star clusters, which he undertook after Solon Irving Bailey suggested it during a visit of Shapley's to Harvard College Observatory.
- Shapley noticed that the globular clusters were distributed in a large spheroidal system, far away from the Sun.
- Edwin Powell Hubble would later use the same techniques as Shapley to determine the distances between galaxies.
- Shapley published his findings in Remarks on the Arrangement of the Sidereal Universe (1918).
- Under the suggestion of the Director of Mount Wilson Observatory, George Ellery Hale, the National Academy of Sciences organised two successive lectures: one from Shapley and one from one of his most vocal opponents, Heber Doust Curtis, an astronomer from Lick Observatory who would later that year become the Director of Allegheny Observatory.
- On 26 April 1920, the Great Debate (as it came to be known) took place in the annual meeting of the Academy in Washington D.C. The debate had no real winner for, while Shapley did argue correctly about the size of the Milky Way, he also defended that the spiral and ellipsoidal nebulae outside of it were much smaller in scale.
- Shapley had been influenced by the wrong measurements of his friend the Dutch astronomer Adriaan Van Mannen, who also worked at Mount Wilson Observatory.
- Because of his astronomical discoveries, Shapley gained the attention of people with influence at Harvard, who decided he was the best candidate to succeed Edward Charles Pickering as Director of the Harvard Observatory, a position Shapley took up in 1921.
- Many astronomers from all parts of the world came to Harvard to work with Shapley and his associates.
- During the Second World War, Shapley participated in humanitarian actions.
- Senator Joseph McCarthy accused him of being a communist in 1950, and Shapley was subject to an investigation.
- Harlow Shapley retired in 1952 and moved to Sharon, New Hampshire.
- Though Shapley was a declared agnostic, he enjoyed discussing religion, and he obtained a doctorate in Divinity in 1969 from the Meadville-Lombard Theological School.
- One of these was Harlow Shapley who gave this address on 'The Cosmic Parade'.
- Shapley died in 1972, at age 86, while staying in Boulder, Colorado.
- Willis Harlow Shapley became a NASA official involved in developing the project to land a man on the moon.
- Alan Horace Shapley was Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and served as Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Committee for the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58.
- Lloyd Stowell Shapley became a mathematician and economist at the RAND corporation then a professor at the University of California Los Angeles.
- Carl Betz Shapley worked for the National Gallery of Art, and then became a teacher in private schools going on to open his own private school in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Born 2 November 1885, near Nashville, Missouri, USA. Died 20 October 1972, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
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Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin Usa
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive