Harlow Shapley

Harlow Shapley

Infobox Scientist
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caption = PAGENAME in his earlier years
birth_date = November 2 1885
birth_place = Nashville, Missouri
death_date = October 20 1972
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nationality = American
ethnicity =
field = astronomy
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alma_mater = Princeton University
doctoral_advisor = Henry Norris Russell
doctoral_students =
known_for = Sun in Milky Way Galaxy
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Harlow Shapley (November 2 1885 – October 20 1972) was an American astronomer.


He was born on a farm in Nashville, Missouri, 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, at the age of 22, Harlow Shapley went to study journalism at 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 Archeology, which Harlow later explained he couldn't pronounce, Harlow 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 the first to realize that the Milky Way Galaxy was much larger than previously believed, and that the Sun's place in the galaxy was in a nondescript location.

He participated in the "Great Debate" with Heber D. Curtis on the nature of nebulas and galaxies and the size of the Universe. The debate took place on April 26 1920. Shapley argued against the theory that the Sun was at the center of the galaxy, and promoted the idea that globular clusters and spiral nebulae are within the Milky Way. He was incorrect about the latter point, but correct about the former.

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.

He served as director of the HCO from 1921 to 1952. During this time, he hired Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who became the first person to earn a doctorate at Harvard University in the field of astronomy.

From 1941 he was on the original standing committee of the Foundation for the Study of Cycles.

In the 1940's, 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).

In 1950, Shapley was instrumental in organizing a campaign in academia against the controversial US bestseller pseudoscience book "Worlds in Collision" by Russian expatriate psychiatrist Immanuel Velikovsky.

In addition to astronomy, Shapley held a life long interest in myrmecology, the study of ants.

Institute on Religion in an Age of Science

Shapley attended Institute on Religion in an Age of Science conferences at Star Island and was the editor of the book [http://books.google.com/books?id=Ejs3HgAACAAJ Science Ponders Religion] (1960). [ "Varieties of Belief" (Review of "Science Ponders Religion")by Edmund Fuller, Dec 18, 1960, New York Times ]


He married Martha Betz, 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 four sons and one daughter.


* Henry Draper Medal in 1926
* Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1934
* Bruce Medal in 1939
* Henry Norris Russell Lectureship in 1950Named after him
*Shapley crater on the Moon
*Asteroid 1123 Shapleya
*Shapley Supercluster
*Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureships In Astronomy, American Astronomical Society


'Some piously record "In the beginning God", but i say "In the beginning hydrogen".'


* [http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/debate/1920/shapley_obit.html "Nature" - Obituary]


External links

* [http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/htmltest/gifcity/cs_why.html The Great Debate]
* [http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/diamond_jubilee/debate20.html Collection of Pieces on The Great Debate]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Harlow Shapley — (* 2. November 1885 in Nashville, Tennessee; † 20. Oktober 1972 in Boulder, Colorado) war ein US amerikanischer Astronom. 1913 promovierte Harlow Shapley an der Princeton University bei Henry Norris Russell mit der Arbeit The Orbits of Eighty… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Harlow Shapley — Nacimiento 2 de noviembre de 1885 Nashville, Missouri, EE. UU. Fallecimiento …   Wikipedia Español

  • Harlow Shapley — Naissance 2 novembre 1885 Nashville (USA) Décès 20 octobre 1972 (à 86 ans) Boulder (USA) Nationalité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Harlow Shapley — (1885 1972), astrónomo estadounidense nacido en Nashville, Missouri, y fallecido en Cambridge. Estudió en las universidades de Missouri y de Princeton, en 1911 comenzó sus trabajos en Princeton con la intención de calcular el tamaño de los… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Harlow Shapley — noun United States astronomer (1885 1972) • Syn: ↑Shapley • Instance Hypernyms: ↑astronomer, ↑uranologist, ↑stargazer …   Useful english dictionary

  • Shapley — ist der Name von Harlow Shapley (1885–1972), US amerikanischer Astronom Lloyd S. Shapley (* 1923), US amerikanischer Ökonom und Mathematiker Siehe auch: Shapley Ames Katalog, 1932 veröffentlichter Galaxienkatalog mit 1249 Objekten heller als… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Shapley 1 — par l Observatoire de La Silla, au Chili[1]. Shapley 1, aussi connue sous le nom de Sp 1 et PLN 329+2.1[2 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Shapley Supercluster — The Shapley Supercluster (Shapley Concentration) is the largest concentration of galaxies in our nearby Universe that forms a gravitationally interacting unit, thereby pulling itself together instead of expanding with the Universe. It appears as… …   Wikipedia

  • Shapley-Sawyer Concentration Class — Die Shapley Sawyer Konzentrationsklassen bilden ein qualitatives Klassifizierungssystem, mit dem Harlow Shapley und seine Doktorandin Helen Sawyer Hogg ab 1927 Kugelsternhaufen nach ihrer scheinbaren Konzentration auf photographischen Aufnahmen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Shapley-Sawyer Konzentrationklasse — Die Shapley Sawyer Konzentrationsklassen bilden ein qualitatives Klassifizierungssystem, mit dem Harlow Shapley und seine Doktorandin Helen Sawyer Hogg ab 1927 Kugelsternhaufen nach ihrer scheinbaren Konzentration auf photographischen Aufnahmen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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