The Bruce Medalists


  Photo ca. 1973, courtesy European Southern Observatory
Adriaan Blaauw
12 April 1914 1989 Bruce Medalist 1 December 2010

Born in Amsterdam, Adriaan Blaauw studied astronomy at the Universities of Leiden, where he worked with Jan Oort and Ejnar Hertzsprung, and Groningen, where he earned his doctorate under Pieter van Rhijn. In 1945 he returned to Leiden, from which he participated in an expedition to Kenya in 1949-50, and made lengthy visits to Yerkes Observatory, where he became a member of the staff in 1953. Four years later he returned to the Netherlands to become director of the University of Groningen’s Kapteyn Astronomical Laboratory, which he rebuilt into a major research center concentrating on galactic structure. His scientific contributions concerned the motions of star clusters and associations, “runaway stars,” star formation, and the determination of the cosmic distance scale. From 1975 to 1981 he was a professor at Leiden. Blaauw was a leader in international collaborations. He played a significant role in the construction of the European Southern Observatory in Chile, serving two years as scientific director and then as director general from 1970 to 1974. He lent ESO support and became the first chairman of the board of directors of Astronomy and Astrophysics, when that journal was formed by the merger of most European astronomy journals in 1968. He chaired the Scientific Proposals Selection Committee for the astrometric satellite HIPPARCOS. After his 1981 retirement he returned to the Kapteyn Institute at Groningen and wrote several historical articles and books, mostly on international organizations and collaborations in astronomy, but also on Dutch farmhouses and the village in which he lived.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Mercury 18, 6, 197 (1989).

Some offices held
International Astronomical Union, President, 1976-79.

Biographical materials
Blaauw, Adriaan, “My Cruise Through the World of Astronomy,” Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 42, 1-37 (2004).
Boland, W. & H. van Woerden, eds., Birth and Evolution of Massive Stars and Stellar Groups, Proceedings of the Symposium, Dwingeloo, Netherlands, September 24-26, 1984(D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1985) contains many articles about Blaauw and a bibliography.
Echternach, E., “Adriaan Blaauw: Zestig Jaar Sterrenkunde,” Zenit 19, 204-08 (1992) [in Dutch].
Milone, Eugene, Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (Springer, NY, 2007), pp. 135-36.
Pottasch, Stuart R, “Adriaan Blaauw at 80,” ESO Messenger 76, 62-63 (1994).
University of Groningen, History Professor Adriaan Blaauw.

de Zeeuw, Tim, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 43, 43 (2011).
European Southern Observatory, 2 December 2010.
Groningen University, Kapteyn Astronomical Laboratory, December 2010.
Kuljken, Koen & Jan Lub, Leiden Observatory, 2 December 2010.

AIP Center for History of Physics (3 photos)
European Southern Observatory (several)
University of Groningen, 1999

Named after him
Minor Planet #2145 Blaauw
The Blaauw Observatory, University of Groningen

More references

The Bruce Medalists

Please send comments, additions, corrections, and questions to