The Bruce Medalists


  portrait Photo American Institute of Physics Niels Bohr Library 
Harlow Shapley
2 November 1885 1939 Bruce Medalist 20 October 1972

Harlow Shapley earned his bachelor’s degree as a student of Frederick Seares at the University of Missouri in his home state, then wrote an important doctoral dissertation on eclipsing binary stars under Henry Norris Russell at Princeton. From 1914 to 1921 he was at Mt. Wilson Observatory, where he calibrated Henrietta S. Leavitt’s period-luminosity relation for Cepheid variable stars and used it to determine the distances to globular clusters. He boldly and correctly proclaimed that the globulars outline the Galaxy, and that the Galaxy is far larger than was generally believed and centered thousands of light years away in the direction of Sagittarius. In 1920 he held what was later dubbed Astronomy’s Great Debate with Heber D. Curtis on the scale of the universe. From 1921 to 1952 Shapley was director of the Harvard College Observatory. There he studied the Magellanic Clouds and made catalogs of galaxies. He wrote many books and was an important popularizer of science. He founded and developed an outstanding graduate school and moved Harvard’s observing stations from Cambridge, Massachusetts and Arequipa, Peru to Harvard, Massachusetts (some 60 km west of Cambridge) and South Africa, respectively. The president of many organizations and a cofounder of UNESCO, he played a major role in national and international affairs.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Jeffers, Hamilton N., PASP 51, 77-84 (1939).

Other awards
American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Rumford prize, 1933.
American Astronomical Society, Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 1950.
Franklin Institute, Benjamin Franklin Medal, 1945.
National Academy of Sciences, Henry Draper Medal, 1926.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1934, presented by F.J.M. Stratton, MNRAS 94, 592-93 (1934).

Some offices held
American Association for the Advancement of Science, President, 1947.
American Astronomical Society, President, 1943-46.

Biographical materials
Bok, Bart J., Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 49, 241-91 (1978).
Gingerich, Owen, Dictionary of Scientific Biography 12, 345-52.
Gingerich, Owen, “Through Rugged Ways to the Galaxies,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 21, 77-88 (1990).
Glass, Ian, Revolutionaries of the Cosmos: The Astro-Physicists (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, UK, 2005).
Palmeri, Joann, “An Astronomer beyond the Observatory: Harlow Shapley as Prophet of Science,” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Oklahoma, 2000.
Shapley, Harlow, Through Rugged Ways to the Stars (Scribner’s, NY, 1969).
Smith, Horace A. & Virginia Trimble, Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, 2nd ed. (Springer, NY, 2014), pp. 1048-51.

Bok, Bart J., Sky & Telescope 44, 354-57 (1972).
Bok, Bart J., QJRAS 15, 51-55 (1974).
Goldberg, Leo, Physics Today 26, 107 (Jan. 1973).
Hogg, Helen Sawyer, JRASC 67, 31-3 (1973).
Kopal, Z., Astrophysics & Space Science 18, 258-266 (1972).
Kopal, Zdenek, Nature 240, 429-30 (1972).
Öpik, E, Irish Astron. Journal 10, 302-303 (1972).
Wright, F.W., Mercury 2, 2, 3-4 (1973).

The American Association of Amateur Astronomers
AIP Center for History of Physics (several)
Time Magazine cover, 29 July 1935.

Named after him
Lunar crater Shapley
Minor Planet #1123 Shapleya
American Astronomical Society, The Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureships In Astronomy
Shapley 1: An Annular Planetary Nebula

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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