By the 1950s the Lowell Observatory was stagnant. The three senior astronomers had been there for decades, and they were no longer doing much research or publishing. Yet they jealously guarded the telescopes and prevented younger colleagues from using them effectively. V.M. Slipher, director since 1916, had been a very productive astronomer in his youth, when he was guided by founder Percival Lowell, but now he devoted his remaining energies to his many business interests. The observatory's sole trustee, a nephew of the founder, was busy with his business and politics in Massachusetts and slow to exert authority in Flagstaff. Finally, after C.O. Lampland died and V.M. and E.C. Slipher were in their seventies, the trustee decided that he had to make a change. He brought in mathematician Albert Wilson, who had been leading the Palomar Sky Survey for Caltech. One of Wilson's qualifications seems to be that he was acceptable to the Slipher brothers. Wilson started the observatory on the road to modernity but ran into personal problems as well as difficulty managing observatory personnel, and he resigned after three years. John Hall became director in 1958, just as the American reaction to Sputnik made abundant federal resources available to science. In his nineteen years as director Hall completely revived the historic institution and brought it into the late twentieth century.
American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- December 2006