The Bruce Medalists


  photo Photo c. 1895, courtesy Mary Lea Shane Archives, Lick Observatory
Edward Charles Pickering
19 July 1846 1908 Bruce Medalist 3 February 1919

Edward C. Pickering, was born in Boston and earned his B.S. in physics at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University at 19. He taught physics for ten years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he built the first instructional physics laboratory in the United States. Appointed at age thirty, he directed the Harvard College Observatory for forty-two years. He and his staff made visual photometric studies of 45,000 stars. He personally made some 1.4 million photometric meaurements. With funds provided by Henry Draper’s widow, Anna Palmer Draper, he hired a number of women, including Williamina P. Fleming, Annie J. Cannon, Antonia Maury, and Henrietta S. Leavitt, and produced the Henry Draper Catalogue, with objective prism spectra of hundreds of thousands of stars classified according to Cannon’s “Harvard sequence.” He established a station in Peru to make the southern photographs and published the first all-sky photographic map. He and Hermann Carl Vogel independently discovered the first spectroscopic binary stars. He also discovered a new series of spectral lines which turned out to be due to ionized helium. He was a leader in applying photography to astronomy, building large data sets for future scientists to use, fundraising, organization of large projects, and promoting astronomy to the public. Pickering encouraged amateur astronomers and was a founder of the American Association of Variable Star Observers.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Cushing, Charles A., PASP 20, 55-63 (1908).

Other awards
American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Rumford prize, 1891.
Government of Germany, Order Pour le Merite for Arts and Sciences, 1911.
National Academy of Sciences, Henry Draper Medal, 1888.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1886, 1901, presented by E.B. Knobel, MNRAS 61, 293-305 (1901).

Some offices held
American Association for the Advancement of Science, President, 1912.
American Astronomical Society, President, 1905-19.

Biographical materials
Bailey, Solon I., Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Science 15, 169-89 (1932) (pdf).
Plotkin, Howard, Dictionary of Scientific Biography 10, 599-601.
Plotkin, Howard, “Edward Charles Pickering,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 21, 47-58 (1990).
Stone, Horace A., Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (Springer, NY, 2007), pp. 905-07.
Tenn, Joseph S., “Edward Pickering: The Seventh Bruce Medalist,” Mercury  20, 1, 26 (1991).

American Association of Variable Star Observers, Memorial to Edward Charles Pickering (AAVSO, Norwich, CT, 1920).
Bailey, S.I., Ap.J. 50, 233-44 (1919).
Campbell, W.W. , PASP 31, 73-76 (1919).
Cannon, Annie J., Popular Astronomy 27, 177 (1919).
King, Edward S., JRASC 13, 165-73 (1919).
Turner, H.H., MNRAS 80, 360-65 (1920).
More obituaries

AIP Center for History of Physics (several)
Caltech Archives
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “Pickering’s Harem”
MIT Physics Department history
Steinicke, Wolfgang
U.S. Naval Observatory Library

Named after him
Lunar crater Pickering
Martian crater Pickering
Minor Planet #784 Pickeringia
Pickering series of spectral lines of ionized helium

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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