The Bruce Medalists
||Photo courtesy Mary Lea Shane Archives, Lick Observatory
|7 February 1824
||1904 Bruce Medalist
||12 May 1910
William Huggins was one of the wealthy British “amateurs” who contributed so much to 19th century science. At age 30 he sold the family business and built a private observatory at Tulse Hill, five miles outside London. After G.R. Kirchhoff and R. Bunsen’s 1859 discovery that spectral emission and absorption lines could reveal the composition of the source, Huggins took chemicals and batteries into the observatory to compare laboratory spectra with those of stars. First visually and then photographically he explored the spectra of stars, nebulae, and comets. He was the first to examine the spectra of novae and the first to show that some nebulae, including the great nebula in Orion, have pure emission spectra and thus must be truly gaseous, while others, such as that in Andromeda, yield the continuous spectra characteristic of stars. He was the first to attempt to measure the radial velocity of a star. He also pioneered in studies of the solar corona without an eclipse. After 1875 his observations were made jointly with his talented wife, the former Margaret Lindsay Murray.
Presentation of Bruce medal
von Geldern, Otto, PASP 16, 49-62 (1904).
National Academy of Sciences, Henry Draper Medal, 1901.
French Academy of Sciences, Lalande Prize, 1872; Valz Prize, 1883; Prix Janssen, 1888.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1867, 1885.
Royal Society, Royal medal, 1866; Rumford Medal, 1880; Copley Medal, 1898.
Some offices held
British Association for the Advancement of Science, President, 1891.
Royal Astronomical Society, President, 1877-78.
Royal Society, President, 1900-05.
Becker, Barbara J., Eclecticism, Opportunism, and the Evolution
of a New Research Agenda: William and Margaret Huggins and the Origins of Astrophysics (Doctoral Dissertation, Johns Hopkins University, 1993).
Becker, Barbara J., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004.
Becker, Barbara J., Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2011).
Dingle, Herbert, Dictionary of Scientific Biography 6, 540-43.
Glass, Ian, Revolutionaries of the Cosmos: The Astro-Physicists (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, UK, 2005).
Maunder, E. Walter, Sir William Huggins and Spectroscopic Astronomy (T.C. & E.C. Jack, London, 1913; reprinted by Erwood, Kent, UK, 1980).
Mills, Chas. E. & C.F. Brooke, A Sketch of the Life of Sir William Huggins, K.C.B., O.M. (Times Printing Works, Richmond, Surrey, UK, 1936). [Begun by Margaret Huggins and continued by John Montefiore, concluded by Mills & Brooke. No author is listed.]
Notable Names Database (NNDB)
Tenn, Joseph S., “William Huggins: The Fifth Bruce Medalist,” Mercury  19, no. 5, 148-49, 153 (1990).
Campbell, W.W., PASP 22, 149-63 (1910).
Chant, C.A., JRASC 4, 253-60 (1910).
D[yson], F.W., Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 86, 1-19 (1912).
Hale, George E., Ap.J. 37, 145-53 (1913).
Newall, H.F., MNRAS 71, 261-70 (1911).
Scheiner, J., Astr. Nach. 185, 141/42-143/44 (1910) [in German].
Becker, Barbara J., includes a young Huggins, his observatory and spectroscope
National Portrait Gallery, London, 1905 painting by John Collier
Named after him
Lunar crater Huggins
Martian crater Huggins
Minor Planet #2635 Huggins
The Bruce Medalists