AAS 199th meeting, Washington, DC, January 2002
Session 31. HAD II: The Development of American Astrophysics: Ideas, Instruments, Observatories and Astronomers
Special Session Oral, Monday, January 7, 2002, 10:30-12:00noon, State

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[31.03] The Bruce Medalists

J.S. Tenn (Sonoma State University)

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) has presented the Catherine Wolfe Bruce gold medal for lifetime contributions to astronomy most years since 1898. The 94 medalists include most of the scientists whose work has greatly changed astronomy since the late nineteenth century: Huggins, Pickering, Campbell, Hale, Eddington, Russell, Adams, Slipher, Hertzsprung, Hubble, Shapley, Oort, Baade, ...

Major exceptions include those who died young, those who worked in teams, and, in the early years, women. Mathematicians appear to have been as likely to be honored as astronomers from the beginning, but the fortunes of physicist nominees have varied. The nomination process is an unusual one, with the directors of six observatories, three in the U.S. and three abroad, asked to nominate up to three candidates each year. For the first six decades the observatories rarely varied, and directors had long tenures. They nominated the same individuals repeatedly. Now both observatories and their directors vary regularly.

Much can be learned about the changes in astronomy from the late nineteenth century, when observers worked alone with long refractors and a theorist could spend a lifetime computing the orbit of one comet, to the present, when most papers have multiple authors and a single project may include millions of objects. For example, celestial mechanics was the specialty of many of the early medalists but none since 1966.

I have posted photographs, brief biographies, extensive bibliographies, and links to publications by and about all of the medalists, from Simon Newcomb in 1898 to Hans Bethe in 2001, at http://phys-astro.sonoma.edu/BruceMedalists/. I will discuss a bit of the history of the medal and some of the medalists.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://phys-astro.sonoma.edu/BruceMedalists/. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: joe.tenn@sonoma.edu

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