The Bruce Medalists


  Photo c. 1955, courtesy Yerkes Observatory
William Wilson Morgan
3 January 1906 1958 Bruce Medalist 21 June 1994

After three years of undergraduate study at Washington and Lee University Bill Morgan joined the staff of the Yerkes Observatory, where he spent his entire career, including three years as director. While at Yerkes he earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Chicago, the latter under Otto Struve with a thesis on the spectra of A stars. Eschewing theory, he devoted his research to morphology, the classification of objects by their form and structure. He, Philip Keenan, and Edith Kellman introduced stellar luminosity classes and the two-dimensional classification of stellar spectra strictly on the basis of the spectra themselves (the MK system). He would use the spectra combined with photoelectric color indices measured elsewhere to determine stellar distances. With Donald E. Osterbrock and Stewart Sharpless he demonstrated the existence of spiral arms in the Galaxy using precise distances of O and B stars. Morgan invented the UBV system of magnitudes and colors, and Morgan and Nicholas U. Mayall developed a spectral classification system for giant galaxies. He served as editor of the Astrophysical Journal from 1947 to 1952.

Presentation of Bruce medal
McKellar, Andrew, PASP 70, 129-32 (1958).

Other awards
American Astronomical Society, Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 1961.
National Academy of Sciences, Henry Draper Medal, 1980.
Royal Astronomical Society, Herschel Medal, 1983, presented by M.J. Rycroft, Observatory 103, 225-26 (1983).

Biographical materials
Morgan, W.W., “A Morphological Life,” Ann. Rev. Astr. & Astrophys. 26, 1-9 (1988).
Osterbrock, Donald E., Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 72, 288-313 (1997) [html or pdf].

Garrison, Robert F., PASP 107, 507-12 (1995).
McNally, D., QJRAS 36, 175-77 (1995).
Osterbrock, Donald E., Physics Today 47, 12, 82 (1994).
Wilford, John Noble, The New York Times, 24 June 1994, v143, pB13(N) pA25(L), col 1.
More obituaries

Yerkes Observatory

Named after him
Minor planet #3180 Morgan

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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