Since its founding in 1891, many people have passed through the doors of the Vatican Observatory. A quick perusal of our guestbook reveals several Names, including Popes, nobel laureates, astronauts, actors, and saints.
Last week, we began highlighting visitors who came on the occasion of the first General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union. This event will occupy the next several entries in this column. The visitors for today’s column include Guillaume Bigourdan, Émile Belot, Nicholas Donitch, Sydney Hough, and Andrew Crommelin.
Camille Guillaume Bigourdan (1851-1932) visited on April 29. Next to his name, he wrote, “Paris, Observatoire national France.”
His research primarily involved the study of nebulae, of which he measured the positions of thousands. He also attempted (mostly unsuccessfully) to measure their proper motions.
He was director of the international bureau of time (Bureau International de l’Heure) from 1919-1928.
He was vice president of the French Academy of Sciences in 1923, and its president in 1924.
He served the IAU as president of the committee on nebulae, president of the committee on the reform of the calendar. He also served on just about every other committee in the IUA.
Émile Belot (1857-1944) visited on the first of May. He wrote, “Paris Vice-President Societé Astronomique de France” (Paris, Vice-President of the Astronomical Society of France).
Belot was a chief engineer of French state factories. He explored methods of automating production and the use of machines to streamline manufacture.
He served as vice president of the French philomathic society and the French astronomical society.
In astronomy, he was primarily interested in cosmogeny. He was a proponent of a dualist theory of the origins of worlds, in which the early Sun had a violent interaction with some larger nebulous object. This interaction (according to the hypothesis) led to the formation of the planets.
Belot did not formally serve on any committee of the IAU, but petitioned (unsuccesfully, as far as I can tell) for the formation of a committee on cosmogeny.
Nicholas N. Donitch [Nicolae Donici] (1874-1960) also visited on May 1. He wrote, “Observatoire d’Astronomie Physique sis parc de Starya Doubossary, Bessarabie. Adresse: Hotel de Londres, Kichinev, Bessarabie.” (Astrophysical observatory in Starya Doubossary park, Bessarabia [Romania]. Address: London Hotel, Kishinev, Bessarabia.)
He came from a noble Romanian family. He directed the observatory in Bessarabia.
His research involved solar eclipses, solar physics, and planetary astronomy.
He belonged to the Romanian Academy until he was expelled by communist authorities in 1948, at which time he fled to France.
Donitch was a member of the IAU committee on solar physics.
The asteroid 9494 Donici is named in his honor.
NOTE: Thanks to the historian Magda Stavinschi of the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy, I have corrected the year of Donitch’s death. I originally cited incorrect internet information.
Sydney S. Hough
Sydney Samuel Hough FRS (1879-1923) visited on May 2. He wrote, “Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope.”
He directed the Royal Observatory of South Africa from 1907 to 1923.
His background was applied mathematics (regarding tidal theory). The Hough functions in the equations governing the fluid motions of tides are named for him.
As director of the Royal Observatory, he became adept at practical astronomy as well. He carried forth the observatory’s contribution to the Carte du Ciel program, measuring the positions of more than twenty thousand stars.
He was the first president of the Royal Society of South Africa in 1908, he also was a Fellow of the Royal Society (Britain) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa.
He was a vice-president of the IAU executive committee and president of the IAU committee on meridian astronomy. He served on the committee of longitudes by wireless telegraph, the committee on the Carte du Ciel project, the committee on time.
Andrew C. D. Crommelin
Andrew Claude de la Cherois Crommelin (1865-1939) also visited on May 2. He wrote simply, “Greenwich.”
His astronomical work involved solar eclipses as well as calculating the orbits of comets. He spearheaded one of the famous solar eclipse expeditions of 1919 to test Einstein’s general theory of relativity. His group made observations from Sobral, Brazil.
In 1929, he established that three comets (Pons 1818 II, Coggia-Winnecke 1873 VII, and Forbes 1928 III) were in fact the same object. This comet was eventually renamed 27P/Crommelin.
He was president of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1929-1931.
The asteroid 1899 Crommelin, the comet 27P/Crommelin, and the craters Crommelin on the moon and Mars are all named in his honor.
He served on the IAU committee on minor planets and the committee on comets.
Next week: Theodore Phillips, F. J. M. Stratton, Felix de Roy, Nello Venturi Ginori, and Ejnar Hertzsprung