The Bruce Medalists

 

  photo Photo 1929, Yale University, courtesy Dr. Dorrit Hoffleit
Ernest William Brown
29 November 1866 1920 Bruce Medalist 22 July 1938

Ernest W. Brown was born in England and educated at Cambridge University, where he studied under celestial mechanician George H. Darwin. He taught mathematics from 1891 to 1907 at Haverford College and from 1907 to 1932 at Yale University. Starting with refinements of George W. Hill’s work, Brown devoted his career to the theory of the Moon’s motion and constructing accurate lunar tables. His theory took account of “the gravitational action of every particle of matter which can have a sensible effect on the Moon’s motion,” some 1500 terms. He then determined the numerical values of the constants by analyzing 150 years of Greenwich observations, and, with the assistance of Henry B. Hedrick and punched card machines, computed tables accurate to 0.01 arcsec. He showed that some small discrepancies in the apparent motion of the Moon are actually due to fluctuations in the Earth’s rotation rate. He also worked on orbits of Trojan asteroids, a satellite of Jupiter, and trinary star systems.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Hodghead, Beverly L., PASP 32, 85-92 (1920).

Other awards
French Academy of Sciences, Pontécoulant Prize, 1910.
National Academy of Sciences, James Craig Watson Medal, 1936, presented by A.O. Leuschner, Science May 7, 1937.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1907, presented by W.H. Maw, MNRAS 67, 300-13 (1907).
Royal Society, Royal Medal, 1914.

Some offices held
American Astronomical Society, President, 1928-31.
American Mathematical Society, President, 1915-16.

Biographical materials
Archibald, Raymond Clare, Semicentennial History of the American Mathematical Society, 1888–1938 (American Mathematical Society, 1938), 173-83 [includes an extensive list of Brown’s publications].
O’Connor, J.J. & E.F Robertson, The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive
Schlesinger, Frank & Dirk Brouwer, Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Science 21, 243-73 (1941).
Tenn, Joseph S., “Ernest W. Brown: The Fifteenth Bruce Medalist,” Mercury 21, 6, 194 (1992).
Warner, Deborah Jean, Dictionary of Scientific Biography 2, 516.

Obituaries
Barney, Ida, JRASC 32, 410-12 (1938).
Brouwer, Dirk, MNRAS 99, 300-07 (1939).
Crawford, R.T., PASP 50, 257-61 (1938).
Darwin, C.G., Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society (London) 3, 18-22 (1941).
Eckert, W.J., Popular Astronomy 47, 63-66 (1939).
Schlesinger, Frank, Ap.J. 89, 152-55 (1939).
D[yson], F.W., Observatory 62, 21-23 (1939).
More obituaries

Named after him
Lunar crater Brown
Minor Planet #1643 Brown

More references

The Bruce Medalists


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joe.tenn@sonoma.edu
JST
2015-11-11