AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 25. HAD II: Celebrating Other Centennials
Historical, Oral, Monday, May 31, 1999, 10:00-11:30am, Marquette

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[25.04] The AAS ``Semi-centennial" Meeting: Northwestern University\\and Yerkes Observatory, September 1947

D.E. Osterbrock (UCO/Lick Obs/UCSC)

The AAS celebrated its "semi-centennial" fifty-two years ago! It was actually the fiftieth anniversary of the "First Conference" of astronomers and astrophysicists held at the dedication of Yerkes Observatory in 1897, which led to the actual formation of the Society two years later. Otto Struve, president of the AAS, was publicizing the fiftieth anniversary of his Yerkes Observatory in 1947, and he simply announced it was also the semi-centennial of the Society. Joel Stebbins, the grand old man of the AAS who had joined it as a graduate student in 1900, and held nearly every office in the Society from councilor to president, supported Struve's early celebration of the anniversary, probably largely because he was to retire himself in 1948.

The meeting was held at Northwestern University and at Yerkes. There were then 625 AAS members. About 140 of them attended the meeting, and presented some 50 papers, all oral, with no parallel sessions. Struve organized a symposium on stellar atmospheres, with 5 invited speakers, and the great majority of the contributed papers were also on stars, a few on nebulae and interstellar matter, one on galaxies, and none on cosmology. Not to be outdone, Gerard P. Kuiper, who had recently succeeded Struve as director of Yerkes Observatory, organized a second symposium on the atmospheres of the planets, held at Yerkes immediately after the AAS meeting. After two days of sessions at Evanston, the members had driven to Williams Bay for the closing session Saturday, at which Struve and Stebbins gave their versions of the history of the observatory and of the Society. The two symposia formed the bases for two important books, Astrophysics: A Topical Symposium, and The Atmospheres of the Earth and the Planets, edited by J. Allen Hynek and Kuiper respectively.

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