AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 1 HAD I: Centennial Celebration of the Founding of Mount Wilson Observatory
Special Session, Sunday, January 9, 2005, 2:00-5:00pm, Sunrise

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[1.02] Taking Charge: Walter Sydney Adams and the Mount Wilson Observatory

R. Brashear (Smithsonian Libraries)

The growing preeminence of American observational astronomy in the first half of the 20th century is a well-known story and much credit is given to George Ellery Hale and his skill as an observatory-building entrepreneur. But a key figure who has yet to be discussed in great detail is Walter Sydney Adams (1876-1956), Haleís Assistant Director at Mount Wilson Observatory. Due to Haleís illnesses, Adams was Acting Director for much of Haleís tenure, and he became the second Director of Mount Wilson from 1923 to 1946. Behind his New England reserve Adams was instrumental in the growth of Mount Wilson and thus American astronomy in general. Adams was hand-picked by Hale to take charge of stellar spectroscopy work at Yerkes and Mount Wilson and the younger astronomer showed tremendous loyalty to Hale and Haleís vision throughout his career. As Adams assumed the leadership role at Mount Wilson he concentrated on making the observatory a place where researchers worked with great freedom but maintain a high level of cooperation.

This paper will concentrate on Adamsís early years and look at his growing relationship with Hale and how he came to be the central figure in the early history of Mount Wilson as both a solar and stellar observatory. His education, his years at Dartmouth and Yerkes (including his unfortunate encounter with epsilon Leonis), and his formative years on Mount Wilson are all important in learning how he shaped the direction of Mount Wilson and the development of American astronomy in the first half of the 20th century. This latter history cannot be complete until we bring Adams into better focus.


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

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© 2004. The American Astronomical Society.