Walter Baade: A Life in Astrophysics

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Princeton University Press, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 270 pages
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Although less well known outside the field than Edwin Hubble, Walter Baade was arguably the most influential observational astronomer of the twentieth century. Written by a fellow astronomer deeply familiar with Baade and his work, this is the first biography of this major figure in American astronomy. In it, Donald Osterbrock suggests that Baade's greatest contribution to astrophysics was not, as is often contended, his revision of Hubble's distance and age scales for the universe. Rather, it was his discovery of two distinct stellar populations: old and young stars. This discovery opened wide the previously marginal fields of stellar and galactic evolution--research areas that would be among the most fertile and exciting in all of astrophysics for decades to come.

Baade was born, educated, and gained his early research experience in Germany. He came to the United States in 1931 as a staff member of Mount Wilson Observatory, which housed the world's largest telescope. There, he pioneered research on supernovae. With the 100-inch telescope, he studied globular clusters and the structure of the Milky Way, every step leading him closer to the population concept he discovered during the wartime years, when the skies of southern California were briefly darkened. Most Mount Wilson astronomers were working on weapons-development crash programs devoted to bringing Baade's native country to its knees, while he, formally an enemy alien in their midst, was confined to Los Angeles County but had almost unlimited use of the most powerful telescope in the world.

After his great discovery, Baade continued his research with the new 200-inch telescope at Palomar. Always respected and well liked, he became even more famous among astronomers as they shifted their research to the fields he had opened. Publicity-shy and seemingly unconcerned with publication, however, Baade's celebrity remained largely within the field. This accomplished biography at last introduces Baade--and his important work--to a wider public, including the newest generation of skywatchers.

  

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Walter Baade: a life in astrophysics

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Baade was perhaps the preeminent observational astronomer in the middle third of the 20th century. He put to best use the many hours he spent with the giant reflecting telescopes at the Mt. Wilson ... Read full review

Contents

The Preparation Gottingen and Hamburg 18931927
1
The Path toward the Two Populations Hamburg 19271931
25
Before the War Mount Wilson 19311938
49
War and a Great Discovery Mount Wilson 19391947
82
Young Stars and Old Palomar and Princeton 19481953
112
Radio Astronomy and the Size of the Universe Palomar and Pasadena 19481958
147
Telling the Good News America and Europe 19531959
177
The Finale and After Australia and Gottingen 19591960
200
ABBREVIATIONS
229
NOTES
233
BIBLIOGRAPHY
259
INDEX
261
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

Donald E. Osterbrock, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is himself an astronomer in the Lick Observatory and directed it for eight years. He has published a book on the astrophysics of gaseous nebulae, as well as a biography of James E. Keeler, and is President-Elect of the American Astronomical Society.

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