Bertil Lindblad

Bertil Lindblad


Date of Birth
November 26, 1895
Date of Death
June 25, 1965

A graduate of the University of Uppsala, Sweden, Bertil Lindblad directed the Stockholm Observatory from 1927-65. He often visited the California observatories. He extended spectroscopic means of distinguishing between giant and main sequence stars, and he studied the structure and dynamics of star clusters. His most important work was the theory of galactic rotation. He showed that the system of stars can be divided into several subsystems rotating about the same axis, each subsystem having its own rotation rate and consequent degree of flattening. The “high-velocity” stars are actually moving slowly; the sun is moving faster. Lindblad confirmed Harlow Shapley’s direction and approximate distance to the center of the Galaxy, and he estimated the galactic mass and the period of the sun’s orbit. His work led directly to Jan Oort’s theory of differential galactic rotation. Lindblad headed several national and international organizations and was one of the organizers of the European Southern Observatory.

Presentation of Bruce medal

Kron, Gerald E., PASP 66, 109-111 (1954).

Other awards

Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1948, presented by W.M.H. Greaves, MNRAS 108, 212-213 (1948).

Some offices held

International Astronomical Union, President, 1948-52.
International Council of Scientific Unions, President, 1952-55.
Nobel Foundation, Chairman of the Board, 1965.

Biographical materials

Dutta, Suvendra Nath, Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (Springer, NY, 2007), pp.697-98.
Öhman, Yngue, Dictionary of Scientific Biography 8, 364-65.


Anonymous [Öpik, E.J.], Irish Astr. Journal 9, 167 (1969).
Oort, J.H.QJRAS 7, 329-341 (1966).
Page, Thornton L., Sky & Telescope 30, 142-43 (1965).
More obituaries


AIP Center for History of Physics

Named after him

Lunar crater Lindblad
Minor Planet #1448 Lindbladia
Lindblad Resonances


Papers, etc.

Lindblad’s papers are at the Center for History of Science, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden.

Other References: Historical

Berendzen, Richard, Richard Hart, & Daniel Seeley, Man Discovers the Galaxies (Science History Pubs., NY, 1976).

Blaauw, AdrianESO’s Early History (ESO, Garching bei München, 1991).

Blaauw, AdrianHistory of the IAU: The birth and first Half-Century of the IAU (Kluwer, Boston, 1994).

Bok, Bart J., The Distribution of the Stars in Space (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1937).

Brémond, Alain G., “V.M. Slipher’s Discovery of the Rotation of Spiral Nebulae and the Controversy with Bertil Lindblad, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage 12, 72-80 (2009).

Collinder, Per, Swedish Astronomers 1477-1900 (Almqvist & Wikrells, Uppsala, 1970).

Danforth, Charles, The Origins of Spiral Arms

Eddington, Arthur StanleyThe Rotation of the Galaxy (Clarendon Press, 1931). [Halley Lecture, 30 pp.]

Holmberg, Gustav, Reaching for the Stars: Studies in the History of Swedish Stellar and Nebular Astronomy, 1860-1940 (Lund Studies in the History of Science and Ideas, vol. 13, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, 1999).

Lindblad, Per Olof, “Early Galactic Structure,” in Oort and the Universe ed. by Hugo van Woerden, Willem N. Brouw, & Henk C. van de Hulst (D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1980), 59-64.

Lindblad, Per Olof, “Bertil Lindblad’s Early Work: The Two-Dimensional Classification of Stellar Spectra at Low Dispersion,” Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage 4, 163-70 (2001). This paper contains a complete bibliography of Lindblad’s publications through 1927.

Oort, Jan H., “The Development of our Insight into the Structure of the Galaxy between 1920 and 1940,” Education in and History of Modern Astronomy, Annals NY Acad Sci 198, 255-266 (1972).

Smith, Robert W., The Expanding Universe: Astronomy’s “Great Debate” 1900-1931 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1980).

Smith, Robert W., “Beyond the Big Galaxy: The Structure of the Stellar System 1900–1952,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 37, 307-42 (2006).

Struve, Otto & Velta Zebergs, Astronomy of the 20th Century (Macmillan, NY, 1962).

Thoren, Victor, Charles Gow, & Kent Honeycutt, “An Early View of Galactic Rotation,” Centaurus 18, 301-314 (1973-74).

Toomre, Alar, Theories of Spiral Structure,”Theories of Spiral Structure,” Ann. Rev. Astr. & Astrophys. 15, 437-78 (1977).

Toomre, Alar, “Some Historical Remarks on Bertil Lindblad’s work on Galactic Dynamics,” in Barred Galaxies and Circumnuclear Activity: Proceedings of the Nobel Symposium 98, held at Stockholm Observatory 30 Nov - 3 Dec 1995 (Springer, 1996), p. 1-5.

van de Kamp, Peter, “The Galactocentric Revolution: A Reminiscent Narrative,” PASP 77, 325-335 (1965).

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Other References: Scientific

Lundmark, Knut & Bertil Lindblad, “Photographic Effective Wave-lengths of Some Spiral Nebulae and Globular Clusters,” Ap.J. 46, 206-18 (1917).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Use of Grating Spectra for Determining Spectral Type and Absolute Magnitude of the Stars,” Ap.J. 49, 289 (1919).

Lundmark, Knut & Bertil Lindblad, “Photographic Effective Wavelengths of Nebulae and Clusters,” Ap.J. 50, 376 (1919).

Lindblad, Bertil, On the Distribution of Intensity in the Continuous Spectra of the Sun and the Fixed Stars and its Relation to Spectral Type and Luminosity (E. Berlings Boktryckeri, Uppsala, 1920) [Ph.D. Dissertation].

Lindblad, Bertil, “Spectrophotometric Methods for Determining Stellar Luminosity,” Ap.J. 55, 85-118 (1922) [correction].

Lindblad, Bertil, “Note to Dr. Knut Lundmark’s and Dr. W. J. Luyten’s Paper on the Determination of the Colour-Equivalent of a Star,” MNRAS 83, 97 (1922).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Intensity-Distribution in Short Grating Spectra and Objective-Prism Spectra as a Function of Spectral Type and Absolute Magnitude,” MNRAS 83, 503-10 (1923).

Lindblad, Bertil, “Note on the Distances of the Cluster-Type Variables,” Ap.J. 59, 37-44 (1924).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Cause of Star-Streaming,” Ap.J. 62, 191-97 (1925).

Lindblad, Bertil, “Star-Streaming and the Structure of the Stellar System,” Arkiv för Matematik, Astronomi och Fysik 19A, 21, 1-8 (1925). [reprinted with commentary in A Source Book in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 1900-1975, Kenneth R. Lang & Owen Gingerich, eds. (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1979), pp. 550-53.]

Oort, J.H. “Observational Evidence Confirming Lindblad’s Hypothesis of a Rotation of the Galactic System,” Bulletin of the Astronomical Institute of the Netherlands, 3, 275–82 (1927).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Nature of the Spiral Nebulæ,” MNRAS 87, 420-26 (1927).

Lindblad, Bertil, “The Velocity Ellipsoid, Galactic Rotation, and the Dimensions of the Stellar System,” MNRAS 90, 503-16 (1930).

Lindblad, B., “The Rotation of the Galaxy,” Scientia 51, 325-334 (1932).

Lindblad, Bertil, “A Condensation Theory of Meteoric Matter and its Cosmological Significance,” Nature 135, 133-35 (1935).

Lindblad, Bertil, “Star-streaming and Spiral Motion in the Stellar System,” MNRAS 95, 663-70 (1935).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Direction of Star-streaming,” MNRAS 96, 69-76 (1935).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Velocity Ellipsoid and the General Star-streaming in the Region around the Sun,” MNRAS 97, 15-24 (1936).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Interpretation of Spiral Structure in the Nebulae,” Ap.J. 92, 1 (1940).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Development of Spiral Structure in a Rotating Stellar System,” Stockholms Observatoriums Annaler 13, 10.1-10.5 (1941).

Lindblad, Bertil, “Remarks on the Dynamical Theory of Spiral Structure,” Stockholms Observatoriums Annaler 14, 1.1-1.34 (1942).

Lindblad, Bertil & Rolf Brahde, “On the Direction of Rotation in Spiral Nebulae.,” Ap.J. 104, 211-25 (1946).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Dynamics of the Barred Spiral Nebulae,” PASP 59, 305 (1947).

Lindblad, B., “On the Dynamics of the Stellar Systems,” [George Darwin Lecture], MNRAS 108, 214-235 (1948).

Lindblad, Bertil, “The Run of the Spiral Arms and the Direction of Rotation in NGC 4594,” PASP 63, 133-36 (1951).

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Evolution of Stellar Systems,” Vistas in Astronomy 2, 1711-21 (1956).

Lindblad, Bertil, “Galactic Dynamics,” in Handbuch der Physik, 53, 21-99 (1959).

Lindblad, Bertil, “Theories of Spiral Structure in Galaxies,” in G.C. McVittie, ed., Problems of Extra-Galactic Research, Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union Symposium no. 15 Held in Canberra March 18-28, 1963, (Macmillan Press, New York, 1962), pp. 146-65.

Lindblad, B., “Large-Scale Structure and Kinematics of the Galactic System,” in Frank J. Kerr, ed., The Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds, Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union Symposium no. 20 Held in Canberra March 18-28, 1963, (Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, 1964), pp. 85-87.

Lindblad, Bertil, “On the Circulation Theory of Spiral Structure,” Astrophysica Norvegica 9, 103-11 (1964).

List of publications at Uppsala, many of them by Lindblad.

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