Hale, George Ellery

Hale, George Ellery, 1868–1938, American astronomer, b. Chicago, grad. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1890. He founded and directed three great observatories (Yerkes, Mt. Wilson, and Palomar), each in its time the greatest in the world, and was active in organizing interdisciplinary scientific societies nationally and internationally. In 1895 he founded the Astrophysical Journal, which remains the leading publication in its field. He had a unique talent for raising funds from private sources in the days before massive governmental support of scientific research. The 200-in. (508-cm) reflector at Palomar Mt. is named the Hale telescope in his honor, and the Mt. Wilson and Palomar observatories were renamed (1969–86) the Hale Observatories. In his own work he pioneered the experimental study of the physical nature of the sun and stars. His observatories were also laboratories employing the latest in photographic and spectrographic techniques. In 1890 he invented the spectroheliograph, which led to the discovery of magnetic fields and vortices in sunspots. Although he studied in Germany with Helmholtz and Planck, served as the first professor of astrophysics at the Univ. of Chicago, and received many prizes and medals from scientific academies around the world, he never completed the requirements for his Ph.D. Besides technical monographs, he wrote popular books, including Depths of the Universe (1924), Beyond the Milky Way (1926), and Signals from the Stars (1931).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Astronomy: Biographies