The Bruce Medalists


  Portrait Photo 1957, courtesy Mary Lea Shane Archives, Lick Observatory
Joel Stebbins
30 July 1878 1941 Bruce Medalist 16 March 1966

Born in Omaha, Joel Stebbins earned his B.S. at at the University of Nebraska. After some graduate work there and at the University of Wisconsin, he earned the third Ph.D. in astronomy granted by the University of California, where his advisor was Lick Observatory director W. Wallace Campbell. Stebbins directed the University of Illinois Observatory from 1903 to 1922 and the University of Wisconsin’s Washburn Observatory from 1922 to 1948, then spent another decade on research at the Lick Observatory. Starting in 1907 with selenium cells so insensitive they could barely detect the moon, Stebbins developed photoelectric photometry to the point where it succeeded photography as the photometric standard. He and his colleagues, especially Albert Whitford, used the new technique to investigate eclipsing binaries, the reddening of starlight by interstellar dust, colors of galaxies, all kinds of variable stars, surface properties of the jovian satellites and Uranus, and the Sun.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Shane, C.D., PASP 53, 5-11 (1941).

Other awards
American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Rumford prize, 1913.
American Astronomical Society, Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 1956.
National Academy of Sciences, Henry Draper Medal, 1915.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1950, presented by W.M. Smart, MNRAS 110, 179-95 (1950).

Biographical materials
Bitterman, Jay, Lake County Astronomical Society
Illinois Distributed Museum
Whitford, A.E., Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 49, 293-316 (1978).

Kron, Gerald E., PASP 78, 214-222, (1966) [errata].
Whitford, A.E., Sky & Telescope 31, 268 (1966).

AIP Center for History of Physics
University of Wisconsin-Madison Dept. of Astronomy

Named after him
Lunar crater Stebbins
Minor planet #2300 Stebbins

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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