Chandrasekhar, S. (Subrahmanyan), 1910-1995

Alternative names
Birth 1910-10-19
Death 1995-08-21

Biographical notes:

Astrophysicist. B.A., Presidency College, Madras University, 1930. Ph. D., Cambridge University, 1933; Sc. D., 1942. Research Associate, Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago, 1937. Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, 1938; Associate Professor, 1942; Professor, 1944; Distinguished Service Professor, 1946; Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics, 1952. Managing editor, Astrophysical Journal, 1952-1971. Nobel Prize in Physics, 1983.

From the description of Papers, 1928-1995. (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52246521

Chandrasekhar died in 1995.

From the description of Edward Arthur Milne: Recollections and reflections, 1976. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82391833

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, astrophysicist, was born October 19, 1910, in Lahore, India (now Pakistan). Originally from southern India, his family returned to Madras in 1918, where Chandrasekhar received most of his schooling. He received a B.A. honors degree from Presidency College, Madras University, in 1930, and Ph.D. and Sc.D. degrees from Cambridge University in 1933 and 1942. While at Cambridge he studied with R. H. Fowler, P. A. M. Dirac, and E. A. Milne, and also spent periods of time with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Max Born at Göttingen. He was appointed a Fellow of Trinity College in 1933. In 1936 Chandrasekhar traveled to the U.S. to give lectures at Harvard College Observatory and at Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago. Offered positions at both places, he decided to accept the offer from Chicago. He returned to India briefly that year, and in September was married to Lalitha Doraiswamy, a former classmate at Presidency College.

Chandrasekhar came to Yerkes Observatory in January 1937 as a Research Associate. He was made an Assistant Professor in 1938, Associate Professor in 1942, Professor in 1944, and Distinguished Service Professor in 1946. In 1952 he was named Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics. His appointment was expanded to include not only the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics but also the Department of Physics and the Enrico Fermi Institute of Nuclear Studies. Chandrasekhar also accepted the position of managing editor of the Astrophysical Journal in 1952, and served in that capacity until 1971. His duties often required him to commute from Yerkes to the University campus for several days each week, which he did until 1964 when he moved his permanent residence to Chicago. Although offered positions at other universities many times, he remained at the University of Chicago throughout his career, and continued to teach and do research well past normal retirement age.

Early in the 1930s Chandrasekhar developed a theory concerning white dwarf stars, combining Fowler's use of the new quantum statistics with special relativity. He derived the so-called "Chandrasekhar limit," which set a maximum mass beyond which a star could not remain at the white dwarf stage, but would continue collapsing indefinitely. The theory drew immediate and intense opposition from Arthur S. Eddington and other astronomers, and was not fully accepted until over 20 years later, when it became one of the key elements in the formation of ideas concerning neutron stars and black holes. Frustrated by the negative response to his work, but certain of its correctness, Chandrasekhar wrote up his research and published it as An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structures (1939) then moved on to other topics.

A pattern emerged in Chandrasekhar's work, of researching a subject, writing a series of articles, compiling a book, then changing fields, roughly every 10 years. This, combined with his position on the editorial staff of the Astrophysical Journal, gave him a breadth of knowledge and interest. The contributions Chandrasekhar made to various fields can be seen from the titles of his books: Principles of Stellar Dynamics (1942); Radioactive Transfer (1950); Hydrodynamic and Hydromagnetic Stability (1961); Ellipsoidal Figures of Equilibrium (1969); The Mathematical Theory of Black Holes (1983); and Eddington: The Most Distinguished Astrophysicist of His Time (1983).

Among the many citations Chandrasekhar received are the Bruce Gold Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society of London, the Rumford Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London, the National Medal of Science of the United States, and the Padma Vibhushan award of India. In 1983 Chandrasekhar was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

From the guide to the Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan. Papers, 1928-1995, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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  • Interstellar matter
  • Dwarf stars
  • Black holes (Astronomy)--Research
  • Astronomy--Study and teaching
  • General relativity (Physics)
  • Physicists--Biography
  • Stellar atmospheres
  • Astronomy
  • Astrophysics
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Nobel prizes
  • Magnetohydrodynamics
  • Radiative transfer
  • Theoretical physics
  • Stochastic processes
  • Cosmology
  • Astrophysicists


  • Biography
  • Physicists


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