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Session 35 - The Western Tradition (HAD).
Oral session, Monday, January 15
Salon del Rey Central, Hilton

[35.04] Young Otto Struve: The Education and Development of A Research Scientist 1921-1932

D. E. Osterbrock (UCO/LO/UCSC)

Otto Struve arrived at Yerkes Observatory from Turkey in October 1921, the penniless survivor of a defeated army. Then 24 years old, he immediately began his studies and assistantship as the only graduate student at the observatory. Eleven years later he became its "boy director." His education, training, research experience and development are described in the context of Yerkes Observatory, and of American graduate and post-graduate work in astronomy of the time. Under Director Edwin B. Frost, Yerkes Observatory's main program was radial-velocity measurements of O, B, and A stars. Struve worked on it and did his thesis on spectroscopic binaries. A prodigious achiever, he was appointed to the faculty as an instructor as soon as he received his doctorate. On his own he jumped into frontier research on interstellar absorption lines, based in large part on existing spectrograms taken for the radial-velocity program. Reviewing Cecilia Payne's book on stellar atmospheres in 1926 converted Struve to a self-taught observational astrophysicist.

Research leaves at Mount Wilson and Harvard, with working visits to Lick and the DAO, plus a Guggenheim year at Cambridge with Arthur S. Eddington, broadened his horizons. Struve always observed diligently, published frequently, attended AAS meetings, presented oral papers, and discussed his research with others. With practically no knowledge of modern physics, he cultivated others who were experts in it, beginning with Pol Swings, a visitor from Belgium. By 1932 Struve was ready to become director of Yerkes Observatory, and to lead it back into its place as a leading astrophysical research center, for which George Ellery Hale had founded it.

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