The Bruce Medalists


  Photo 1991, courtesy University of California, Santa Cruz
Donald Edward Osterbrock
13 July 1924 1991 Bruce Medalist 11 January 2007

Don Osterbrock was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and received all of his education at the University of Chicago. He worked at Princeton University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin, where he directed the Washburn Observatory, and, from 1973 to 2007, the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he directed the Lick Observatory from 1973 to 1981, formally retiring in 1992. Starting out as a theorist, he computed one of the first successful models of red dwarf stars, introducing convective envelopes. For most of his career he was an observer. While still a student of S. Chandrasekhar at the Yerkes Observatory, he joined with William W. Morgan and Stewart Sharpless to demonstrate the existence of spiral arms in our Galaxy. His work on the physics of ionized gases greatly improved our understanding of planetary nebulae and emission nebulae, and he published influential books on physical processes in nebulae and active galactic nuclei. He and his students and colleagues observed Seyfert and other active galaxies and quasars and investigated the physical processes in them. He also had a third career, as a historian of astronomy in the “big telescope era,” writing five books and numerous articles on 19th and 20th century astronomers and observatories. The mentor of many influential astronomers, he also served in a number of administrative positions in national and international organizations in both astronomy and history of astronomy.

Personal Web Page
At UCO/Lick Observatory

Presentation of Bruce medal
Morrison, Nancy, Mercury 20, 182 (1991).

Other awards
American Astronomical Society, Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 1991.
American Astronomical Society, Historical Astronomy Division, LeRoy E. Doggett Prize, 2002. (Photo 2002-01-07 by JST)
Antique Telescope Society, Hans Lippershey Award, 1998.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1997.

Some offices held
American Astronomical Society, President, 1988-90.

Biographical materials
Osterbrock, Donald E., “A Fortunate Life in Astronomy,” Ann. Revs. Astron. Astrophys. 38, 1-33 (2000).
Shields, Gregory A., Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013

Krieger, Lisa M., San Jose Mercury News, 13 January 2007.
Miller, Joseph S. & Gary J. Ferland, PASP 119, 831-35 (2007).
O’Dell, C. Robert & William P. Sheehan, Physics Today 60, 4, 79-80 (2007).
Sheehan, William & C. Robert O’Dell, Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage 10, 151-6 (2007).
Sideman, Roger, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 13 January 2007.
Stephens, Tim, University of California, Santa Cruz, 12 January 2007.
Tenn, Joseph S., HAD News #70, May 2007, pp. 6-7.
Veilleux, Sylvain, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 39, 1075-77 (2007).

University of California, Santa Cruz
AIP Center for History of Physics (several)

Named after him
Minor Planet #6107 Osterbrock
University of California, Santa Cruz Department of Astronomy, Donald and Irene Osterbrock Leadership Program
American Astronomical Society, Historical Astronomy Division, Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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