Struve, Otto, 1897-1963

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1897-08-12
Death 1963-04-06
Americans
Russian, English

Biographical notes:

Astronomer (astrophysics of stars, spectroscopy, interstellar studies, origin of universe) and administrator. On the staff of Yerkes Observatory, 1921-1932, director, 1932-1950; editor, ASTROPHYSICS JOURNAL, 1932-1947; on the astrophysics faculty, department chair, and director, Leuschner Observatory, University of California, Berkeley, 1950-1959; and director, National Radio Astronomy Observatory from 1959.

From the description of Selected correspondence [microform], 1932-1945. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82625986

Astronomer (astrophysics of stars, spectroscopy, interstellar studies, origin of universe) and administrator. On the staff of Yerkes Observatory (1921-1932), director (1932-1947); on the astrophysics faculty at the University of Chicago (1932-1950); director, McDonald Observatory (1932-1950); editor, Astrophysics Journal (1932-1947); on the astrophysics faculty, department chair, and director, Leuschner Observatory, University of California, Berkeley (1950-1959); and director, National Radio Astronomy Observatory from 1959.

From the description of Correspondence, 1926-1944. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82394892

Ukranian-born Otto Struve was an influential astronomer, professor, and observatory director who specialized in stellar spectroscopy and the study of double stars. He served as director of the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory before moving to the University of California, Berkeley in 1950, where he was named chair of the Astronomy Dept.

From the description of Otto Struve papers, 1837-1966 (bulk 1953-1956). (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 85168500

Biographical Sketch

Otto Struve (August 12, 1897-April 6, 1963) was an influential astronomer, professor, and observatory director who specialized in stellar spectroscopy and the study of double stars. Struve's research achievements, administrative talents, and active promotion of international cooperation greatly influenced the development astronomy in the 20th century.

Born in Kharkov, Russia (now the Ukraine) to Gustav Wilhelm Ludwig and Elisabeth (Grohmann) von Struve, Otto Struve was descended from a family of noted astronomers. His great-grandfather, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve was the director of the Imperial Observatory at Pulkovo, Russia, and was a pioneer in the study of double stars. Otto Struve's grandfather, Otto Wilhelm Struve, succeeded Friedrich as director of the Pulkovo Observatory. Otto's father was director of the observatory and dean of the faculty at the University of Kharkov.

Struve attended high school in Kharkov (graduating in 1916), spent a year at the Michael Artillery School in Petrograd, and received his diploma in 1919 from the University of Kharkov, where he specialized in astronomy. He served as a lieutenant of field artillery in the Imperial Russian Army from 1916 to 1918, and in 1919-20 fought in the White Russian Army in the Bolshevik Revolution, where he was wounded in action. When the opposition to the Communists collapsed, Struve moved to Turkey as a refugee where he worked odd jobs until he was invited by Edwin Frost to come to the United States and join the staff of the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory in 1921. The Yerkes Observatory boasted one of the largest telescopes in the world at the time. Struve began his work at the University of Chicago as an assistant in stellar spectroscopy while concurrently working for his Ph.D. degree, which he received in 1923. His thesis was entitled A Study of Spectroscopic Binaries of Short Period. In May 1925 Struve married Mary Martha Lanning. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1927.

Upon attaining his doctorate he immediately began his teaching career at the University of Chicago, first as an instructor in astronomy (1924-26), then an assistant professor (1926-30), associate professor (1930-32), and finally a full professor (1932). In 1939 he founded and directed the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory (where a telescope is named for him). In 1950 he moved to the University of California, Berkeley and became chairman of the Department of Astronomy and director of the Leuschner Observatory. In 1959 he took a leave of absence to assume the first directorship of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia (where he also encouraged the first search for extraterrestrial intelligence). He held this position until his retirement in 1962. While at Berkeley Struve initiated the establishment of the campus computer center and was also largely responsible for the creation of the radio astronomy laboratory.

Among the many honors Struve received over the years were the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Isaac Newton medal of the Royal Astronomical Society of London for 1944, the Order of the Crown, rank of Chevalier (Belgium), and the Catherine Bruce gold medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for 1948. In 1936 he was chosen to represent the American Astronomical Society in the division of physical sciences of the National Research Council, and he served as chairman of the advisory committee on astronomy to the Office of Naval Research. Struve also received honorary doctorates from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (1939), the University of Copenhagen (1946), and the University of Liege (1949).

Struve was president of the American Astronomical Society from 1946 to 1949. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, International Astronomical Union, the American Physical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Academy of Sciences of Denmark (honorary), the Societe Astronomique de France, and the Astronomische Gesellschaft. He also was a corresponding member of the Societe Royale des Sciences de Liege, of the Haarlem (Holland) Society of Sciences, and a foreign associate member of the Royal Astronomical Society of London. Struve also belonged to the national honorary scientific fraternity, Sigma Xi. As a frequent contributor to astronomy periodicals Struve published over 900 articles and several books and he was editor of the Astrophysical Journal from 1933 to 1947.

From the guide to the Otto Struve papers, 1837-1966, (bulk 1953-1956), (The Bancroft Library.)

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Subjects:

  • Astrophysics
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Astrophysics--History--Sources
  • Interstellar matter
  • Stars, New
  • Variable stars
  • Astronomical spectroscopy
  • Spectrum analysis--Classification
  • Double stars
  • Astronomers
  • Stars--Rotation
  • Spectrum analysis
  • Physics literature
  • Stark effect
  • Astronomy
  • Stars--Spectra

Occupations:

  • College administrators
  • Astronomers

Places:

  • California--Berkeley (as recorded)