Monday, April 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, William

William Wallace Campbell was born today on a farm in Ohio, in 1862. He was a a pioneer of astronomical spectroscopy and catalogued the radial velocities of stars, was director of the Lick Observatory for 30 years, and led expeditions to photograph stars and solar eclipses in the Southern Hemisphere, one of which provided further evidence supporting Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. His obituary in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 99, p.317, says, in small part:
Campbell was not one of those blown about by every idle wind of astronomical doctrine; no-one ever called him a weather-vane. And the implication that he was not especially receptive to new tenors of thought is true. His method was to push ahead in his own established line of research rather than to experiment with trial balloons in the hope of reaching other levels. He has been criticized on this score, but, if criticism be limited to those who have accomplished as much as he, not many are entitled to be heard.

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