The Bruce Medalists

 

  Photo courtesy American Institute of Physics Niels Bohr Library
Lyman Spitzer, Jr.
26 June 1914 1973 Bruce Medalist 31 March 1997

Lyman Spitzer, Jr. studied at Yale and Cambridge Universities and earned his Ph.D. under Henry Norris Russell at Princeton University. Following research at Harvard, teaching at Yale, and war work in New York, he succeeded Russell as professor and observatory director at Princeton in 1947. He promptly hired Martin Schwarzschild, and the two built a major research department. Spitzer worked in many areas of theoretical astrophysics, including spectral line formation, the dynamical evolution of star clusters, and star formation. His most important work was on the physics of the interstellar medium. He showed that there must be at least two phases—high temperature clouds around hot stars and cooler intercloud regions. He led in studies of interstellar dust grains and magnetic fields. He was the first to propose a large telescope in space (in 1946), and he was analyzing data from the Hubble Space Telescope the day he died. He led the development and operation of the ultraviolet astronomy satellite Copernicus. An early leader in attempts to harness controlled thermonuclear fusion on earth, he was the founder and first director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (originally called Project Matterhorn). He wrote important books on ionized gases, the physics of the interstellar medium, and the dynamical evolution of globular clusters. Several of his graduate students became leaders in astrophysical research.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Weymann, Ray J., Mercury 2, 4, 4-6 (1973).

Other awards
American Astronomical Society, Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 1953.
American Philosophical Society, Benjamin Franklin Medal, 1991.
American Physical Society, James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics, 1975.
Astronomische Gesellschaft, Karl Schwarzschild Medal, 1975.
Franklin Institute, David Rittenhouse Medal, 1957; Benjamin Franklin Medal, 1980.
National Academy of Sciences, Henry Draper Medal, 1974; National Medal of Science, 1979.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Jansky Prize, 1974.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1978, presented by A.H. Cook, QJRAS 20, 1-2 (1978).
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Crafoord prize, 1985.
Société Astronomique de France, Janssen Prize, 1980.

Some offices held
American Astronomical Society, President, 1960-62.

Biographical materials
American Museum of Natural History, Lyman Spitzer and the Space Telescope
Copernicus mission archives
Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute
Morton, Donald C., “Lyman Spitzer: Astronomer, Physicist, Engineer, and Mountaineer,” in L. Armus & W.T. Reach, The Spitzer Space Telescope: New Views of the Cosmos ASP Conference Series, Volume 357, proceedings of the conference held 9-12 November, 2004 in Pasadena, California, USA (Astronomical Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, 2006), pp. 1-6.
Ostriker, Jeremiah P., Biographical Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society 150, 505-16 (2006).
Ostriker, Jeremiah P., Biographical Memoir of the National Academy of Sciences, 2007.
Spitzer, Lyman, Jr., “Dreams, Stars, and Electrons,” Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 27, 1-17 (1989).
Spitzer Space Telescope

Obituaries
Bahcall, John N. & Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Physics Today 50, 10, 123-24 (1997).
Dressler, Alan, “Four Stars of the Cosmos (Martin Schwarzschild, Eugene Merle Shoemaker, Lyman Spitzer Jr., Clyde W. Tombaugh),” The New York Times Magazine Jan 4, 1998, p 44 col 2.
Field, George B., PASP 110, 215-22 (1998).
Field, George B. & John N. Bahcall, Nature 387, 244 (1997).
Hazeltine, R.D., Solar News, 16 April 1997.
King, Ivan R., Bull. Am. Astron. Soc. 29, 1489-91 (1997).
Mestel, Leon, Bull. Astr. Soc. India 25, 281-83 (1997).
Princeton University.
Copernicus Mission Archive.
More obituaries

Portraits
AIP Center for History of Physics (many)
Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton University (large version)
Princeton University: Astrophysics Faculty in 1949

Named after him
Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly SIRTF)
Minor Planet #2160 Spitzer
Lyman Spitzer Building at PPPL
American Alpine Club Lyman Spitzer Cutting Edge Award

More references

The Bruce Medalists


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JST
2013-10-18