William Wallace Campbell

William Wallace Campbell

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William Wallace Campbell (11 April 1862 – 14 June 1938) was an American astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

, and director of Lick Observatory
Lick Observatory
The Lick Observatory is an astronomical observatory, owned and operated by the University of California. It is situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, in the Diablo Range just east of San Jose, California, USA...

 from 1900 to 1930. He specialized in spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...



He was born on a farm in Hancock county, Ohio, the son of Robert Wilson and Harriet Welsh Campbell. After a few years of local schooling he entered in 1882 the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

 to study civil engineering, graduating Bachelor of Science in 1886. Whilst at university he developed his interest in astronomy.

After graduating he was appointed Professor of Mathematics at the University of Colorado
University of Colorado
The University of Colorado system is a system of public universities in Colorado consisting of three universities in four campuses: University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, and University of Colorado Denver in downtown Denver and at the Anschutz Medical Campus in...

 but soon moved back to Michigan as an instructor in astronomy. In 1891 he was invited to work on spectroscopy at Lick Observatory
Lick Observatory
The Lick Observatory is an astronomical observatory, owned and operated by the University of California. It is situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, in the Diablo Range just east of San Jose, California, USA...

 in California. Campbell was a pioneer of astronomical spectroscopy and catalogued the radial velocities of stars. He was made a director of Lick Observatory from 1901 to 1930. He led a team to Australia in 1922 where he photographed a solar eclipse. The data obtained provided further evidence supporting Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

's theory of relativity
Theory of relativity
The theory of relativity, or simply relativity, encompasses two theories of Albert Einstein: special relativity and general relativity. However, the word relativity is sometimes used in reference to Galilean invariance....

. In 1931 he accepted the rôle of president of the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

in Washington (1931–1935).

He served as 10th President of the University of California
University of California
The University of California is a public university system in the U.S. state of California. Under the California Master Plan for Higher Education, the University of California is a part of the state's three-tier public higher education system, which also includes the California State University...

 from 1923 to 1930. He also served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public
Society for Science & the Public
Society for Science & the Public , formerly known as Science Service, is a 5013 non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of science, through its science education programs and publications, including the weekly Science News magazine.Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the organization...

, from 1923-1926. He served three terms as president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is a scientific and educational organization, founded in San Francisco on February 7, 1889. Its name derives from its origins on the Pacific Coast, but today it has members all over the country and the world...

 (in 1895, 1909 and 1918).

He committed suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 in California at the age of 76. He was mostly blind and suffering from bouts of aphasia
Aphasia is an impairment of language ability. This class of language disorder ranges from having difficulty remembering words to being completely unable to speak, read, or write....

. This was not only very frustrating to him, but he felt that it left him a burden to his family in terms of care and expense, according to notes he left behind at the time of his death. He had married Elizabeth Ballard Thompson in 1892; they had three sons.

Honours and awards

  • Lalande Medal of the French Academy of Sciences
    French Academy of Sciences
    The French Academy of Sciences is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research...

  • Henry Draper Medal
    Henry Draper Medal
    The Henry Draper Medal is awarded by the United States National Academy of Sciences "for investigations in astronomical physics". Named after Henry Draper, the medal is awarded with a gift of USD $15,000...

     from the National Academy of Sciences (1906)
  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    -History:In the early years, more than one medal was often awarded in a year, but by 1833 only one medal was being awarded per year. This caused a problem when Neptune was discovered in 1846, because many felt an award should jointly be made to John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier...

  • Janssen Medal
    Janssen Medal
    The Janssen Medal can refer to:*The Prix Jules Janssen, awarded by the French Astronomical Society*The Janssen Medal , awarded by the French Academy of Sciences*The Janssen Medal of the French Photographic Society...

  • Bruce Medal
    Bruce Medal
    The Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal is awarded every year by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding lifetime contributions to astronomy. It is named after Catherine Wolfe Bruce, an American patroness of astronomy, and was first awarded in 1898...

  • Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London

  • Crater Campbell
    Campbell (lunar crater)
    Campbell is a large lunar crater that is located in the northern hemisphere on the far side of the Moon. It lies to the southwest of the walled plain D'Alembert, an even larger formation. If Campbell were located on the near side of the Moon as seen from the Earth, it would form one of the largest...

     on the Moon
    The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

  • Crater
    Impact crater
    In the broadest sense, the term impact crater can be applied to any depression, natural or manmade, resulting from the high velocity impact of a projectile with a larger body...

     on Mars
    Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

  • Asteroid
    Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

     2751 Campbell
    2751 Campbell
    2751 Campbell is a main belt asteroid with a perihelion of 2.7152179 AU. It has an eccentricity of 0.1739676 and an orbital period of 1363.4843145 days .Campbell has an average orbital speed of 19.20184334 km/s and an inclination of 1.48689°....

Crocker expeditions led by Campbell

Charles Frederick Crocker
Charles Frederick Crocker
Charles Frederick Crocker , was vice president of the Southern Pacific Transportation Company.-Biography:He was born in Sacramento on December 26, 1854 to Charles Crocker.-References:...

 and William Henry Crocker financed numerous Lick-Crocker solar eclipse expeditions. Campbell led several of these expeditions.
  • Solar eclipse of January 22, 1898
    Solar eclipse of January 22, 1898
    A total solar eclipse occurred on January 22, 1898. It was visible across central Africa, and into India and Asia.-Observations:-References:* ** **...

     Jeur, Maharashtra
    Maharashtra is a state located in India. It is the second most populous after Uttar Pradesh and third largest state by area in India...

    , India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

  • Solar eclipse of May 28, 1900
    Solar eclipse of May 28, 1900
    A total solar eclipse occurred on May 28, 1900. - Viewing :In 1900 the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, then based in Washington, D.C., loaded several railroad cars with scientific equipment and headed to Wadesboro, North Carolina...

     Thomaston, Georgia
    Thomaston, Georgia
    Thomaston is a city in and the county seat of Upson County, Georgia, United States. The population was 9,638 at the 2006 census. It is the principal city of and is included in the Thomaston, Georgia Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville,...

  • Solar eclipse of August 30, 1905
    Solar eclipse of August 30, 1905
    A total solar eclipse occurred on August 30, 1905. -References:* * * *...

    Alhama can refer to:* Alhama de Almería, a town in the province of Almería in Spain* Alhama de Aragón, a town in the province of Zaragoza in Spain* Alhama de Granada, a town in the province of Granada in Spain...

    , Spain
    Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

  • Solar eclipse of January 3, 1908
    Solar eclipse of January 3, 1908
    A total solar eclipse occurred on January 3, 1908. -References:*...

     Flint Island
    Flint Island
    Flint Island is an uninhabited coral atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, part of the Southern Line Islands under the jurisdiction of Kiribati.-Geography:...

    , Kiribati
    Kiribati , officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The permanent population exceeds just over 100,000 , and is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, straddling the...

  • Solar eclipse of August 21, 1914
    Solar eclipse of August 21, 1914
    A total solar eclipse occurred on August 21, 1914. It was visible from northern Europe and Asia.-References:*...

    Brovary is a city in Kiev Oblast in northern Ukraine, an eastern suburb of the country's capital, Kiev. It is the administrative centre of the Brovarskyi Raion . Brovary is an ancient town, firstly mentioned in 1630. Its name translated from Ukrainian means "brewers"...

    , Ukraine
    Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

  • Solar eclipse of June 8, 1918
    Solar eclipse of June 8, 1918
    A total solar eclipse occurred on June 8, 1918. The eclipse was observed by a U.S. Naval Observatory team at Baker City in Oregon. The painting below shows totality when the moon prevented the sun's rays from hitting that part of Oregon...

     Goldendale, Washington
    Goldendale, Washington
    Goldendale is a rural agricultural town in and the county seat of Klickitat County, Washington, United States, near the Columbia River Gorge. The population within city limits was 3,760 at the 2000 census and 3,407, a 9.4% decrease at the 2010 census. A nationally known point of interest is north...

  • Solar eclipse of September 21, 1922
    Solar eclipse of September 21, 1922
    A total solar eclipse occurred on September 21, 1922.This eclipse started in Africa and covered the whole Indian Ocean and Australia. Two large scientific expeditions investigated Einstein's theory of relativity.- External links :* * *...

    Wallal is the location of a bore in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.The bore is located from the Great Northern Highway between Port Hedland and Broome and has an elevation of . The nearest town is Marble Bar which is situated South of the bore....

    , Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

External links