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 few 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’s visitors all came on May 5 or 6, 1922. They are Charles E. St. John, Alfred Fowler, Tadeusz Banachiewicz, William Lockyer, Luis Rodés, and Edward Pigot.
Charles E. St. John
Next to his name, Charles Edward St. John (1857-1935) wrote, “Mt. Wilson Calif, U.S.A.”
He was a professor at Oberlin College from 1899-1908, serving as dean of the college of arts and science 1907-1908. In 1908, George Ellery Hale offered him a post at Mount Wilson Observatory, which he took.
Much of his research was focused on solar spectroscopy. He conducted some of the most precise and accurate measurements of solar field lines in his day. In particular, he studied lines associated with the element Iron. From its effect on spectral lines, he was able to confirm the presence of a strong magnetic field in sunspots. He also studied the motions of the gases in sunspots, the rotation of the Sun and its effect on the spectrum at the solar limbs, and the effect of general relativity on the solar spectrum.
Outside of solar spectroscopy, he also conducted spectroscopic studies of the atmosphere of Venus.
He presided over the IAU committee on wavelength standards and tables of solar spectra and served on the committee on solar atmosphere, the committee on solar physics, the committee on solar rotation, and the finance committee.
Next to his name, Alfred Fowler CBE FRS (1868-1940) wrote, “Imperial College, London.”
Fowler had been an assistant to Sir Norman Lockyer until Lockyer’s retirement in 1901, after which Fowler’s research focus shifted from astronomical spectroscopy to laboratory spectroscopy.
In a past entry of the Specola Guestbook on the visit of Edward Charles Pickering, I mentioned the Pickering-Fowler series. Pickering had detected this series in the spectrum of the star -Puppis, which he attributed to hydrogen. In 1912, Fowler was able to reproduce the series in the laboratory using gaseous hydrogen. However, his hydrogen was mixed with helium, and it was (as Neils Bohr later determined) the helium that was in fact responsible for the spectral lines. [n.b. Bohr challenged the origin of the lines by deriving them from his atomic theory, thus strengthening the theory.]
He was secretary of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1912-1918, president 1919-1921, and foreign secretary 1931-1936.
He was the first general secretary of the IAU executive committee and served on the committee on solar atmosphere, the committee on astronomical expeditions, eclipses, etc., the committee on wavelength standards and tables of solar spectra, the committee on comets, the committee on spectral classification of stars, and the committee on solar physics.
The lunar crater Fowler is named in his honor.
Next to his name, Tadeusz Banachiewicz (1882-1954) wrote, “Obserwatorjum Astronomiczne w Krakowie, Polska” (Astronomical Observatory in Krakow, Poland)
He was director of the Krakow Observatory.
His research involved orbital mechanics and determining orbital parameters. He developed a form of matrix algebra (“cracovians”) for doing these calculations. He also introduced the concept of LU decomposition into linear algebra, which today is a vital part of any linear algebra course.
He is the inventor of the chronocinematograph, an instrument that couples a cinema camera and a precise timekeeping device for use in the observations of solar eclipses.
He founded the journal Acta Astronomica.
He was the first president of the Polish Astronomical Society. He also served as vice president of the Geodetic Committee for the Baltic States.
He served on the IAU committee for variable stars, the committee on time, and the finance committee. From 1932-1938, he would be the IAU vice-president.
The asteroid 1286 Banachiewicza is named for him, as is the lunar crater Banachiewicz.
There is a line in the guest book for a “P. [Fr.] Eugenio da Balerna (Svizzera) Cappuccino.” I have found no record of this person in attendance at the meeting. Perhaps he was an unregistered guest. The person was apparently a Capuchin Franciscan priest from Balerna, Switzerland, known as Fr. Eugenio. Beyond that I can say nothing.
William James Stewart Lockyer (1868-1936) wrote, “Salcombe Hill, Sidmouth, S. Devon.”
He is most notably the son of the famous astronomer Sir Norman Lockyer, the founder of the journal Nature. He was himself an astronomer and served as director of the observatory that was renamed after his father, the Norman Lockyer Observatory in Sidmouth.
His astronomical research was primarily involved with solar astronomy and sunspot cycles. He, along with Edouard Brückner and Charles Egeson, are credited with the Brückner-Egeson-Lockyer cycle. This is an approx. 30-40 year climactic cycle influenced by solar activity.
He helped establish the International Meteorological Committee.
He served on the IAU committee on stellar parallax and the committee on spectral classification of stars.
Fr. Luis Rodés y Campderà S.J. (1881-1939) wrote, “Ebro Observatorio Tortosa, Spagna.”
He was director of the Ebro observatory from 1919-1939.
Much of his scientific work was on solar physics, solar activity, and terrestrial magnetism. He is the author of the popular astronomy book El Firmamento (1927).
He was a member of the IAU committee on solar physics.
Fr. Edward Francis Pigot S.J. (1859-1929) wrote, “Riverview Observatory, Sydney, Australia.”
Pigot’s scientific interests were mainly in the areas of meteorology and seismology. He established a Riverview College Observatory as a seismological station in 1909. He also participated in several solar eclipse expeditions and studied the connection between solar radiation and terrestrial weather.
He did not serve directly on any committee of the IAU, but spoke to the committee on solar radiation in hopes of establishing a solar radiation observatory in Australia.
Next week: Azeglio Bemporad, Bartolo Viaro, Herbert Hall Turner, Henry Norris Russell, Hector Philippot, and Henri Vanderlinden