The Bruce Medalists

 

  Photo courtesy Armagh Observatory
Ernst Julius Öpik
23 October 1893 1976 Bruce Medalist 10 September 1985

Born in Estonia, Öpik studied and began research at Moscow University. During World War I he helped establish Turkestan University in Tashkent. In 1921 he returned to Estonia to complete his doctorate and direct astronomy at the University of Tartu. He remained there, aside from four years at Harvard College Observatory, until forced to flee the Red Army by horse cart during World War II. His last four decades of active research were at Armagh Observatory, Northern Ireland, where he edited the Irish Astronomical Journal from 1950 to 1981. During part of this period he also held an appointment at the University of Maryland. Öpik established the foundation of the physical theory of meteors, developed new statistical methods and performed statistical studies of meteors, comets, and asteroids, and predicted the martian craters and the nature of the surface of Venus. He also made early contributions to stellar structure and evolution theory, showing the significance of nonuniform chemical composition in stellar interiors, and explaining the structure of giant stars. Öpik demonstrated that the spiral nebulae were extragalactic as early as 1922. Several of his contributions were not accepted until rediscovered by others much later. Although primarily a theorist, he invented a rocking camera for observations of meteors.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Mercury 5, 4, 25 (1976).

Other awards
American Association for the Advancement of Science & Meteoritical Society, Kepler Gold Medal, 1972
Meteoritical Society, Frederick C. Leonard Medal,1968.
National Academy of Sciences, J. Lawrence Smith Medal, 1960.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, presented by D.E. Blackwell, QJRAS 16, 358-59 (1975).

Biographical materials
Irish Astr. Journal 17, 4, 411-442 (1986). [entire issue, includes 9 articles].
Butler, John, Short Biography of Ernst Julius Öpik
Einasto, Jaan, “Ernst Öpik Centenary,” Mitteilungen der Astronomischen Gesellschaft 77, 19-23 (1994).
Heyden, Francis J., “Some Extra Thoughts on Ernst Julius Öpik," Irish Astr. Journal 19, 2-3 (1989).
Lindsay, E.M., Irish Astr. Journal 10, 1-8 (1972).
Öpik, E.J., “About Dogma in Science, and Other Recollections of an Astronomer,” Ann. Rev. Astron. & Astrophys. 15, 10 (1977).

Obituaries
Kopal, Zdenek, Astrophys. & Space Sci. 124, 1, 1 (1986).
Moore, Patrick, Sky & Telescope 71, 149 (1986).
Wayman, P.A. & D. J. Mullan, QJRAS 27, 508-12 (1986).
Wetherill, G., Icarus 66, 2, 193-4 (1986).

Photos
Armagh Observatory

Named after him
Minor Planet #2099 Opik

More references

The Bruce Medalists


Please send comments, additions, corrections, and questions to
joe.tenn@sonoma.edu
JST
2014-06-09