AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 58 Stellar Personalities
HAD Oral, Monday, 2:30-4:00pm, January 9, 2006, Maryland C

Previous   |   Session 58   |   Next  |   Author Index   |   Block Schedule

[58.04] Why Does V.M. Slipher Get So Little Respect?

J. S. Tenn (Sonoma State University)

V.M. Slipher (1875-1969) was a superb spectroscopist who made important discoveries in terrestrial (night sky), planetary, cometary, interstellar, nebular, and extragalactic astronomy. At the Lowell Observatory from 1901-54, he served as acting director for ten years and as director for twenty-eight. He measured the rotation rates of most of the planets and demonstrated that Venus is not a rapid rotator. He discovered the bands in the spectra of Jupiter and Saturn and later identified some of them. He demonstrated that some nebulae shine by reflection of starlight and hence must contain dust. He provided convincing evidence that interstellar calcium is abundant, and he discovered interstellar sodium. His most important achievements involved the "spiral nebulae." He was the first to measure their radial velocities, and he was the first to show that they rotate. By 1925 he had measured 39 of the 45 known apparent radial velocities. By the 1930s he was receiving major awards, including the Lalande Prize of the French Academy, Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Yet he received less respect in his own time than some of his contemporaries, and today he rates only a brief mention in some popular cosmology books, with Edwin Hubble often credited with Slipher's achievements. Reasons to be discussed include his association with the unpopular Percival Lowell, his reticence, his staying on as director long past his period of scientific or administrative productivity, and poor treatment by some members of the astronomical establishment, especially those at Lick and Mt. Wilson Observatories.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://phys-astro.sonoma.edu/BruceMedalists/Slipher/. 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

Previous   |   Session 58   |   Next

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.