The Bruce Medalists


  Photo ©Royal Astronomical Society, courtesy Peter Hingley
Alfred Fowler
22 March 1868 1934 Bruce Medalist 24 June 1940

At 14 Alfred Fowler won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science, later part of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, in South Kensington, London. He remained there until retirement, first as a student, later as assistant to pioneer spectroscopist Norman Lockyer, ultimately as professor of astrophysics. After 1923 he was Yarrow Professor of the Royal Society. Fowler became a master of spectroscopy. He found that sunspots are cooler than their surroundings, a discovery made at about the same time by G.E. Hale and his colleagues. He made six eclipse expeditions and photographed the spectrum of the solar chromosphere and corona. Making precise wavelength measurements in the laboratory, he identified titanium oxide in cool stars, magnesium hydride in sunspots, carbon monoxide in comets, and ozone in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. When the Bohr theory of the atom appeared he made contributions to atomic physics, identifying the spectrum of ionized helium and providing data which determined the value of the Rydberg constant and the proton-electron mass ratio. Fowler was a successful teacher and a leader in national and international astronomy.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Hubble, E.P., PASP 46, 87-93 (1934).

Other awards
National Academy of Sciences, Henry Draper Medal, 1920.
French Academy of Sciences, Valz prize, 1913.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1915, presented by E.H. Hills, MNRAS 75, 355-62 (1915).
Royal Society, Royal medal, 1918.

Some offices held
International Astronomical Union, General Secretary, 1919-25.
Royal Astronomical Society, President, 1919-21.

Biographical materials
Dingle, Herbert, Dictionary of Scientific Biography 5, 101-02.
S[tratton], F.J.M., “Professor Alfred Fowler” [ on his retirement], Observatory 57, 317-19 (1934).
Tenn, Joseph S., “Alfred Fowler: The Twenty-Ninth Bruce Medalist,” Mercury 24, 5, 36 (1995).

Dingle, Herbert, Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 3, 483-97 (1941).
Dingle, Herbert, Observatory 63, 262-67 (1940).
Gale, Henry G., H.N. Russell, Walter S. Adams, & W.H. Wright, Ap.J. 94, 1-4 (1941).
Plummer, H.C., MNRAS 101, 132-35 (1941).
More obituaries

AIP Center for History of Physics

Named after him
Lunar crater Fowler
Minor Planet #11765 Alfredfowler

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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