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.
For the past couple weeks, we have been highlighting visitors who came on the occasion of the first General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union. This event will continue to occupy the next several entries in this column. Today, in order to finish off this page of the guestbook, we will highlight six names instead of five. They are T. E. R. Phillips, F. J. M. Stratton, Felix de Roy, Charles Davies, Nello Venturi Ginori, and Ejnar Hertzsprung.
Rev. Theodore Evelyn Reece Phillips FRAS (1868-1942) visited on May 2, 1922. Next to his name, he wrote, “Headley, Epsom, England.”
An Anglican cleric, he was vicar of Headley from 1916 until his death in 1942. He was also an accomplished amateur astronomer and meteorologist.
His astronomical work focused on planetary observations. A member of the British Astronomical Association, he directed the Association’s section on Jupiter (1900-33) and Saturn (1935-40).
He became the president of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1927.
He served the IAU as president of the committee on physical observations of planets, and was a member of the committee on variable stars.
Frederick J. M. Stratton
Lt. Col. Frederick John Marrian Stratton FRS (1881-1960) also visited on May 2. He wrote, “Cambridge, England.”
He was a decorated military officer. During World War I he served in the Corps of Royal Engineers. As a result of his service, he was declared a knight of the French Légion d’honneur. He would also volunteer for service in World War II.
He was also an astronomer and professor at Cambridge University. His astronomical work was focused on solar physics. He also was a pioneer in spectroscopy of novae.
He was director of the Cambridge Solar Physics Observatory from 1928-46.
He presided the Royal Astronomical Society from 1933-35.
He was a devout Unitarian. He presided the General Assembly of the church in 1948.
His interests also strayed into parapsychology, possibly due to his friendship with Sir Oliver Lodge. In 1953, he became president of the Society for Psychical Research. His research attempts in the field were (unsurprisingly) without positive results.
He was a member of the IAU committee on astronomical expeditions, eclipses, etc., the committee on spectral classification of stars, and the finance committee. He would serve as the IAU General Secretary from 1925-1935 and would be the only IAU member to attend all of the first ten general assemblies (spanning 1922-1958).
Félix de Roy
Félix de Roy (1883-1942) made his visit on May 4. He wrote, “Antwerp, Belgium.”
He was both an astronomer and a journalist. As a journalist, he wrote for Le Matin (Antwerp) from 1926-1940.
His research focused on variable stars. He made observations of more than five thousand of them. He also studied comets and asteroids.
He was director of the Variable Star Section of the British Astronomical Association from 1922-1939.
He founded and was served as president of the Astronomical Society of Antwerp.
He was a member of the IAU committee on shooting stars (meteors) and the committee on variable stars.
The crater De Roy on the moon is named in his honor.
Charles D. P. Davies
Rev. Charles Douglas Percy Davies FRAS (1856-1931) also visited on May 4. He wrote, “Dearne, Basingstoke, England.”
Researching C.D.P. Davies was a bit of a challenge, particularly since there is no record of him in the Transactions of the International Astronomical Union (vol. 1, 1922). Apparently he was present as an unregistered guest. A shallow internet search did not produce anything. I almost skipped the name for this blog post, but then I happened to stumble upon his death notice in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (Feb 1932).
Davies was an Anglican minister and astrophile who took an interest in the construction of telescopes and telescope mirrors, including (what was quite advanced for the time) parabolic mirrors. His expertise contributed to some of the portable telescopes used on eclipse expeditions.
He was one of the founding members of the British Astronomical Association, served as its president in 1924.
He became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1889.
He was also an accomplished change ringer, and served as editor of Church Bells.
Nello Venturi Ginori Lisci (1884-1943) also visited on May 4. He wrote, “Florence, Italy.”
This was not his first visit to the Vatican Observatory. He first signed the guestbook on January 18, 1912, and was the subject of a previous Specola Guestbook column. Interested readers can check out that article.
He is listed in the IAU record as a representative of Italy, but did not apparently serve as a member of any IAU committee.
Ejnar Hertzsprung (1873-1967) visited on May 5. He wrote, “Leiden, chief-assistant.”
He studied the relationship between temperature (spectral type) and luminosity of stars. He correlated spectral line widths and proper motions with distance of stars, which was a necessary step in establishing absolute magnitude and hence luminosity.
Today, every introductory astronomy course includes a section on the famous Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, which plots stellar luminosity against surface temperature (or spectral type). (“Russell” is for Henry Norris Russell, who also attended this IAU meeting and will be discussed in a future post.)
He was among the first to use Cepheid variables to measure distances, building on the work by Henrietta Leavitt.
The planetary scientist Gerard Kuiper (for whom the Kuiper belt is named) was one of his students.
He was awarded the Bruce Medal in 1937. The asteroid 1693 Hertzsprung is named for him.
Hertzsprung served the IAU as a member of the committee on stellar photometry, the committee on double stars, the committee on variable stars, and the committee on spectral classification of stars.