Harlow Shapley (November 2, 1885 – October 20, 1972) was a 20th-century American scientist, head of the Harvard College Observatory (1921–1952), and political activist during the latter New Deal and Fair Deal.
Shapley used RR Lyrae stars to correctly estimate the size of the Milky Way Galaxy and the Sun's position within it by using parallax. In 1953 he proposed his "liquid water belt" theory, now known as the concept of a habitable zone.
|Born||November 2, 1885|
Nashville, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||October 20, 1972 (aged 86)|
Boulder, Colorado, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Missouri, Princeton University|
|Known for||Determining correct position of Sun within Milky Way Galaxy; head of Harvard College Observatory (1921–1952)|
|Doctoral advisor||Henry Norris Russell|
|Doctoral students||Georges Lemaître, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin|
Shapley was born on a farm in Nashville, Missouri, to Willis and Sarah (née Stowell) Shapley, and dropped out of school with only the equivalent of a fifth-grade education. After studying at home and covering crime stories as a newspaper reporter, Shapley returned to complete a six-year high school program in only two years, graduating as class valedictorian.
In 1907, Shapley went to study journalism at the University of Missouri. When he learned that the opening of the School of Journalism had been postponed for a year, he decided to study the first subject he came across in the course directory. Rejecting Archaeology, which Shapley later claimed he couldn't pronounce, he chose the next subject, Astronomy.
Post-graduation, Shapley received a fellowship to Princeton University for graduate work, where he studied under Henry Norris Russell and used the period-luminosity relation for Cepheid variable stars (discovered by Henrietta Swan Leavitt) to determine distances to globular clusters. He was instrumental in moving astronomy away from the idea that Cepheids were spectroscopic binaries, and toward the concept that they were pulsators.
He realized that the Milky Way Galaxy was far larger than previously believed, and that the Sun's place in the galaxy was in a nondescript location. This discovery by Shapley is a part of the Copernican principle, according to which the Earth is not at the center of our Solar System, our galaxy, or our Universe. Shapley participated in the "Great Debate" with Heber D. Curtis on the nature of nebulae and galaxies and the size of the Universe. The debate took place on April 26, 1920, in the hall of the United States National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. Shapley took the side that spiral nebulae (what are now called galaxies) are inside our Milky Way, while Curtis took the side that the spiral nebulae are 'island universes' far outside our own Milky Way and comparable in size and nature to our own Milky Way. This issue and debate are the start of extragalactic astronomy, while the detailed arguments and data, often with ambiguities, appeared together in 1921.
Characteristic issues were whether Adriaan van Maanen had measured rotation in a spiral nebula, the nature and luminosity of the exploding novae and supernovae seen in spiral galaxies, and the size of our own Milky Way. However, Shapley's actual talk and argument given during the Great Debate was completely different from the published paper. Historian Michael Hoskin says "His decision was to treat the National Academy of Sciences to an address so elementary that much of it was necessarily uncontroversial.", with Shapley's motivation being only to impress a delegation from Harvard who were interviewing him for a possible offer as the next Director of Harvard College Observatory. With the default by Shapley, Curtis won the debate. The astronomical issues were soon resolved in favor of Curtis' position when Edwin Hubble discovered Cepheid variable stars in the Andromeda Galaxy.
At the time of the debate, Shapley was working at the Mount Wilson Observatory, where he had been hired by George Ellery Hale. After the debate, however, he was hired to replace the recently deceased Edward Charles Pickering as director of the Harvard College Observatory (HCO).
He is also known to have incorrectly opposed Edwin Hubble's observations that there are additional galaxies in the universe other than the Milky Way. Shapley fiercely critiqued Hubble and regarded his work as junk science. However, after he received a letter from Hubble showing Hubble's observed light curve of V1, he withdrew his criticism. He reportedly told a colleague, "Here is the letter that destroyed my universe." He also encouraged Hubble to write a paper for a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hubble's findings went on to reshape fundamentally the scientific view of the universe.
He served as director of the HCO from 1921–52. During this time, he hired Cecilia Payne (later Cecilia Payne-Gaposhkin), who, in 1925, became the first person to earn a doctorate at Radcliffe College in the field of astronomy, for work done at Harvard College Observatory.
From 1941 he was on the original standing committee of the Foundation for the Study of Cycles. He also served on the board of trustees of Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, from 1935-71.
In the 1940s, Shapley helped found government funded scientific associations, including the National Science Foundation. He is also responsible for the addition of the "S" in UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
On November 14, 1946, Shapley appeared under subpoena by the House Un-American Activities Committee in his role as member of the Independent Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, "major political arm of the Russophile left", for opposing U.S. Representative Joseph William Martin Jr. during mid-term elections that year.
In 1947, he became President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In his inaugural address he referred to the danger of the "genius maniac" and proposed the elimination of "all primates that show any evidence of signs of genius or even talent".
Other global threats he listed were: drugs that suppressed the desire for sex; boredom; world war with weapons of mass destruction; a plague epidemic.
In 1950, Shapley was instrumental in organizing a campaign in academia against the controversial US bestseller book (considered by scientists to be pseudoscience) Worlds in Collision by Russian expatriate psychiatrist Immanuel Velikovsky.
Shapley married Martha Betz (1891–1981) in April 1914. She assisted her husband in astronomical research both at Mount Wilson and at Harvard Observatory. She produced numerous articles on eclipsing stars and other astronomical objects. They had one daughter (Mildred) and four sons, one of whom was mathematician and economist Lloyd Shapley, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2012.
Named after him are:
Shapley wrote many books on astronomy and the sciences. Among these was Source Book in Astronomy (New York: McGraw–Hill, 1929—co-written with Helen E. Howarth, also on the staff of the Harvard College Observatory), the first of the publisher's series of source books in the history of the sciences.
In his 1957 book "Of Stars and Men", Shapley proposed the term Metagalaxies for what are now called superclusters.
Dr. Harlow Shapley, one of the world's best-known astronomers, died in a nursing home yesterday in Boulder, Colo., after a long illness. He was 86 years old.
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Martha Betz Shapley, widow of Dr. Harlow Shapley, the astronomer, died Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. She was 90 years old. She was born in Kansas City, Mo., and graduated from the University of Missouri. ...
Shapley was not committed to any particular model of the expanding universe, but he did have strong opinions about the relationship between astronomy and religion. A confirmed agnostic, in the postwar period he often participated in science-religion discussions, and in 1960 he edited a major work on the subject — Science Ponders Religion.
Although a declared agnostic, Shapley was deeply interested in religion and was a genuinely 'religious' person from a philosophical point of view. 'I never go to church', he told Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, 'I am too religious.
The Pope today attended the inauguration of the new academic year of the Pontifical Academy...
1123 Shapleya, provisional designation 1928 ST, is a stony Florian asteroid from the inner regions of the asteroid belt, approximately 11 kilometers in diameter. It was discovered on 21 September 1928, by Russian astronomer Grigory Neujmin at Simeiz Observatory on the Crimean peninsula. It was named after American astronomer Harlow Shapley.878 Mildred
878 Mildred is a minor planet in the main belt orbiting the Sun. It is the lowest numbered, and thus the namesake, of the Mildred family of asteroids, a subgroup of the Nysa family. The Mildred subgroup, and by extension 878 Mildred itself, is thought to have been formed by a recent fragmentation event from a larger asteroid.Fornax Dwarf
The Fornax Dwarf Spheroidal is an elliptical dwarf galaxy in the constellation Fornax that was discovered in 1938 by Harlow Shapley. He discovered it while he was in South Africa on photographic plates taken by the 24 inch (61 cm) Bruce refractor at Boyden Observatory, shortly after he discovered the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy.The galaxy is a satellite of the Milky Way and contains six globular clusters; the largest, NGC 1049, was discovered before the galaxy itself. The galaxy is also receding from the Milky Way at 53 km/s. It mostly contains population II stars.Galactocentrism
In astronomy, Galactocentrism is the theory that the Milky Way Galaxy, home of Earth's Solar System, is at or near the center of the Universe.Observations by William Herschel in 1785 suggested that the Milky Way was a disk-shaped galaxy with the sun in a central position. Although heliocentric, Herschel's observations were the first attempt at an observational cosmology.Herschel's heliocentric theory was overthrown by astronomer Harlow Shapley's work on globular clusters in 1918. Shapley's research marked the transition from heliocentrism to galactocentrism, placing the Galactic Center of the Milky Way Galaxy far away from the sun, towards Sagittarius. Heber Doust Curtis and Edwin Hubble further refuted the heliocentric view of the universe by showing that spirals are themselves far-flung galactic systems. By 1925, the galactocentric model was established.The theory of Galactocentrism was an important step in the development of cosmological models as speculation on the existence of other galaxies, comparable in size and structure to our own, placed the earth in its proper perspective with respect to the rest of the universe. Shifts from heliocentrism to galactocentrism and later acentrism have been compared in significance to the Copernican Revolution.Henry Norris Russell Lectureship
The Henry Norris Russell Lectureship is awarded each year by the American Astronomical Society in recognition of a lifetime of excellence in astronomical research. The idea for the lectureship came from then society President Harlow Shapley in 1945, who led the fund raising drive to collect $10,000 from the membership. One of the major contributors was the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, as Russell had been an important representative at the dedication ceremony for the Mexican National Observatory. The goal was reached in December 1946, using not a little amount of coercive language by Shapley. The first Russell lecturer was, naturally, fellow American astronomer Henry Norris Russell, for whom the award is named. Russell gave a lecture titled "The Royal Road of Eclipses" concerning eclipsing binary stars.IC 342
IC 342 (also known as Caldwell 5) is an intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation Camelopardalis, located relatively close to the Milky Way. Despite its size and actual brightness, its location in dusty areas near the galactic equator makes it difficult to observe, leading to the nickname "The Hidden Galaxy", though it can readily be detected even with binoculars. The dust makes it difficult to determine its precise distance; modern estimates range from about 7 Mly to about 11 Mly.The galaxy was discovered by William Frederick Denning in 1892. It is one of the brightest in the IC 342/Maffei Group, one of the closest galaxy groups to the Local Group. Edwin Hubble first thought it to be in the Local Group, but it was later determined not to be a member.In 1935, Harlow Shapley found that it was wider than the full moon, and by angular size the third-largest spiral galaxy then known, smaller only than the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the Triangulum Galaxy (M33). (Modern estimates are more conservative, giving the apparent size as one-half to two-thirds the diameter of the full moon).It has an H II nucleus.James Cuffey
James Cuffey (October 8, 1911 – May 30, 1999) was an American astronomer. He specialized in photoelectric photometry and held the patent on the Cuffey Iris Photometer, an instrument used in stellar photographic photometry.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Cuffey became a graduate student at Northwestern University in 1934, then went on to Harvard University as a doctoral student under Harlow Shapley. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1938, then took a position as a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University. Serving in the United States Navy in World War II, Cuffey taught navigation at the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1946, he returned to Indiana University, where he became a researcher in the Indiana Asteroid Program, begun in 1949. In 1966, he joined Clyde Tombaugh in starting the astronomy program at New Mexico State University, where he remained until he retired in 1976.
Cuffey was married to astronomer Rita Paraboschi. They had four children. Cuffey died in Bloomington, Indiana. The asteroid 2334 Cuffey is named in his honor.Leslie Peltier
Leslie Copus Peltier (January 2, 1900 – May 10, 1980) was an American amateur astronomer and discoverer of several comets and novae, once described as "the world's greatest non-professional astronomer" by Harlow Shapley.Messier 68
Messier 68 (also known as M68 or NGC 4590) is a globular cluster in the equatorial constellation Hydra. It was discovered by Charles Messier in 1780. William Herschel described it as "a beautiful cluster of stars, extremely rich, and so compressed that most of the stars are blended together". His son John noted that it was "all clearly resolved into stars of 12th magnitude, very loose and ragged at the borders".
M68 is at a distance of about 33,000 light-years away from Earth and is orbiting through the Milky Way with a large eccentricity of 0.5. This orbit carries it as far as 100,000 light years from the galactic center. It is one of the most metal-poor globular clusters, which means it has a paucity of elements other than hydrogen and helium. The cluster may be undergoing core-collapse, and it displays signs of being in rotation. The cluster may have been acquired by the Milky Way galaxy through accretion from a satellite galaxy.All told, as of 2015 a total of 50 variable stars have been identified in this cluster; the first 28 being identified as early as 1919−1920 by American astronomer Harlow Shapley. Most of the variables are of type RR Lyrae, or periodic variables. Six of the variables are of the SX Phoenicis variety, which display short pulsating behavior.Messier 72
Messier 72 (also known as M72 or NGC 6981) is a globular cluster in the Aquarius constellation discovered by French astronomer Pierre Méchain on August 29, 1780. French astronomer Charles Messier looked for it on the following October 4, and included it in his catalog. Both decided that it was a faint nebula rather than a cluster. With a larger instrument, British astronomer John Herschel called it a bright "cluster of stars of a round figure". American astronomer Harlow Shapley noted a similarity to Messier 4 and Messier 12.This cluster is visible as a faint nebula in a telescope with a 6 cm (2.4 in) aperture. the surrounding field stars become visible at 15 cm (5.9 in), while 25 cm (9.8 in) is sufficient to resolve the cluster with an angular diameter of 2.5′. At 30 cm (12 in) the core is resolved in a 1.25′ diameter, showing a broad spread with darker regions to the south and east.Based upon a 2011 census of variable stars, Messier 72 is located at a distance of 54.57 ± 1.17 kly (16.73 ± 0.36 kpc) from the Sun. It has an estimated combined mass equal to 168,000 times the mass of the Sun and is around 9.5 billion years old. The core region has a density of stars that is radiating 2.26 times the luminosity of the Sun per cubic parsec. There are 43 identified variable stars in the cluster.Mildred Shapley Matthews
Mildred Shapley Matthews (February 15, 1915 – February 11, 2016) was a book editor and writer known for astronomy books. She was the daughter of astronomer Harlow Shapley who named an asteroid for her.NGC 1049
NGC 1049 is a globular cluster located in the Local Group galaxy of the Fornax Dwarf, visible in the constellation of Fornax. At a distance of 630,000 light years, it is visible in moderate sized telescopes, while the parent galaxy is nearly invisible. This globular cluster was discovered by John Herschel on October 19, 1835, while the parent galaxy was discovered in 1938 by Harlow Shapley.Nashville, Missouri
Nashville is a small unincorporated community in southwestern Barton County, Missouri, United States. It is located one mile west of Route 43, approximately twelve miles southwest of Lamar.
Nashville was platted in 1869. The name is a transfer from Nashville, Tennessee. A post office called Nashville was established in 1861, and remained in operation until 1959.Harlow Shapley, an astronomer, was born at Nashville in 1885.Of Stars and Men
Of Stars and Men is a 1964 animated film from the Hubley family of animators, based on the 1959 book of the same name by astronomer Harlow Shapley, who also narrates. Made in the style of a documentary, it tells of humankind's quest (in the form of a child) to find its place in the universe, through themes such as outer space, physical matter, the meaning of life and the periodic table. There are no character voices; instead, they "talk" through their actions. It has been cited as an example of an "animated documentary".When it was finished, the film was first screened during a conference at MIT's Visual Department. The film's public premiere was on April 28, 1964 at New York's Beekman Theater, along with a collection of Hubley/U.P.A. shorts (Moonbird and Gerald McBoing-Boing among them) which preceded its showing. The critical reception was uniformly positive.Its genre was a matter of contention among festival curators. At the Venice Film Festival, Of Stars and Men was placed in the live-action feature category, while at the San Francisco Film Festival, it competed in the documentary category and won an award.Of Stars and Men received a VHS release from Buena Vista Home Video in July 1990, and had its DVD debut from Image Entertainment nine years later, as part of a compilation of Hubley productions.Peter Millman
Peter Mackenzie Millman (August 10, 1906 – December 11, 1990) was a Canadian astronomer. He worked at the Dunlap Observatory from 1933 until 1940. In early 1941 he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1946 he joined the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa. He then transferred to the National Research Council in 1955.
During his graduate studies at Harvard University he started a systematic study of meteor spectra at the suggestion of Harlow Shapley in 1929. He continued the work on meteors throughout his active scientific life. He organized one of his most successful observational campaigns in 1946, when on the night of October 9/10 a spectacular shower of the Giacobinids (October Draconids) provided many important photographic spectra.
He was awarded the J. Lawrence Smith Medal in 1954.
A crater on Mars and the minor planet 2904 Millman were named in his honor.Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy
The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy (also known as Sculptor Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy or the Sculptor Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy) is a dwarf spheroidal galaxy that is a satellite of the Milky Way. The galaxy lies within the constellation Sculptor. It was discovered in 1937 by American astronomer Harlow Shapley using the 24-inch Bruce refractor at Boyden Observatory. The galaxy is located about 290,000 light-years away from the Solar System. The Sculptor Dwarf contains only 4 percent of the carbon and other heavy elements in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, making it similar to primitive galaxies seen at the edge of the universe.Shapley 1
Shapley 1 (Sp 1 or PLN 329+2.1) is an annular planetary nebula in the constellation of Norma with a magnitude of +12.6. As viewed from Earth, it is peculiar in that it seems to be a non-bipolar, torus-shaped planetary nebula. However, it is thought that this is due to the viewpoint of looking directly down on a binary system whose orbit is perpendicular to Earth.Discovered in 1936 by Harlow Shapley, it is approximately 4900 light years from Earth, and is around 8700 years old. At the center of the nebula is a magnitude 14 white dwarf star. It has an angular diameter of 1.1 arc minutes, which makes it about one-third (.32) of a light year across.Shapley–Sawyer Concentration Class
The Shapley–Sawyer Concentration Class is a classification system on a scale of one to twelve using Roman numerals for globular clusters according to their concentration. The most highly concentrated clusters such as M75 are classified as Class I, with successively diminishing concentrations ranging to Class XII, such as Palomar 12. (The class is sometimes given with numbers [Class 1–12] rather than with Roman numerals.)William Miller Sperry Observatory
The William Miller Sperry Observatory, also known simply as the Sperry Observatory, is an astronomical observatory owned by Union County College and operated by Amateur Astronomers, Incorporated. The observatory is located on the property of Union County College on their Cranford, New Jersey campus. It was named after William Miller Sperry and dedicated in 1967.
Mrs. Carrie Regina Beinecke and her son, William Sperry Beinecke, made a $150,000 donation to what was then the Union County Junior College. The donation was used to build Sperry Observatory, which was dedicated on May 21, 1967 in honor of William Miller Sperry, Mrs. Beinecke's father. Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley was the keynote speaker at the 1967 dedication.Sperry Observatory has been operated since its dedication by Amateur Astronomers, Inc. The observatory houses two of the largest telescopes on the East Coast open to the public on a weekly basis. The East Dome holds a 10-inch f/15 refractor built by AAI members and donated to the college in November 1972. The West Dome has a 24-inch f/11 Cassegrain reflector purchased and owned by AAI, and installed in October 1974.