Greenstein, Jesse L. (Jesse Leonard), 1909-2002

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William Carlos Williams was an American poet, often considered part of the Imagist and Modernist movements.

From the description of Letter from Jesse L. Greenstein to William Carlos Williams. 1939, Nov. 19. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 226352006

Greenstein was a Harvard educated astronomer who came to the California Institute of Technology in 1948 to run the astronomy program, which then included the administration of the Palomar 200-inch telescope. While at Caltech he also did research on stellar composition and high resolution spectra using the Palomar telescope. Became a leader in the profession, and an administrator in professional scientific organizations.

From the description of Papers, 1923-1992. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 78951080

Biography

Jesse Leonard Greenstein was born in New York City, where his family ran a prosperous real estate business. Although he was expected to join the family business, Greenstein had other interests. As a boy he was an avid reader and an enthusiastic student. His interests ranged from classical languages and literature to science. When he was eight years old his grandfather presented him with a brass telescope and a tripod, and his interest in astronomy flourished. He was soon lecturing to his friends about the planets and stars. Something of a child prodigy, he skipped through the New York public schools and went on to attend a private high school, the Horace Mann School for Boys, from the ages of 11 to 15. His interest in science continued to grow, and when he entered Harvard at age 16, he was committed to pursuing a life in science.

Greenstein received his AB degree from Harvard in 1929, just a few months before the stock market crash. By that time he was already working on his Master's degree in astronomy, which he received the next year. The continuing economic crisis, however, forced him to return to New York to aid his family through the bleak years of the early 1930s. Greenstein recalls these stressful years as having a decisive effect upon his character: he learned the skills of management, communication and financial planning under the most extreme conditions. During these years in New York, Greenstein became acquainted with the physicist I.I. Rabi, who kept Greenstein in touch with the world of science by inviting him to do volunteer work in his lab at Columbia. At Columbia, Greenstein also met astronomers J. Schilt and W. J. Eckert, who kept him in touch with the developments in the field. By 1934, Greenstein felt that he could leave the family business and return to graduate work in astronomy. He returned to Harvard and received his PhD three years later.

Upon the completion of his degree in 1937, Greenstein received a National Research Council Fellowship that permitted him to choose a site for his work. Greenstein's choice was the Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Yerkes bore the stamp of its builder, George Ellery Hale, and was just entering a golden age under the leadership of Otto Struve. Yerkes was a center of both theoretical and observational astronomy, and was at that time just completing the construction of a new 82-inch reflector at McDonald. At Yerkes, Greenstein began work on nebular spectrography in collaboration with the young theorist L. G. Henyey. Together, they discovered diffuse galactic light, the scattering of starlight by dust in the Milky Way. After making these significant contributions to the field of interstellar matter, Greenstein switched over to working on high resolution stellar spectra. This spectrographic work led to new insights on the atomic composition of stars.

Greenstein continued to work at Yerkes throughout the Second World War. In 1948, he accepted an offer from Caltech to take over the leadership of astronomy at the Institute, particularly the new 200-inch telescope at Mount Palomar. Prior to Greenstein's arrival, Caltech had essentially no astronomy department, although it had a tradition of work in astrophysics and a close association with the Mount Wilson observatory initiated by Hale. At Caltech, Greenstein proved to be as good an administrative leader as a researcher, building up astronomy at Caltech into one of the premier programs in the nation. The catalog of Greenstein's accomplishments over the next thirty years is impressive and is richly documented in the collection of his papers. He continued his research into stellar composition and high resolution spectra using the Palomar telescope. He also became deeply involved in the leadership of the astronomical profession, both as a mentor for a new generation of astronomers and as an administrator on numerous national and professional scientific organizations.

To all his varied activities, Greenstein brought a warmth and charm which made him an effective leader and a superb spokesman for science. Throughout his long career in science, he was supported by his wife of many years, the former Naomi Kitay, his boyhood sweetheart.

From the guide to the Jesse L. Greenstein papers, 1923-1992, (California Institute of Technology. Archives.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Schmidt, Maarten. Oral history interview with Maarten Schmidt, 1975 March 10. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Greenstein, Jesse L. (Jesse Leonard), 1909-2002. Oral history interview with Jesse Leonard Greenstein, 1974 July 31. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Aller, Lawrence H. (Lawrence Hugh), 1913-2003. Oral history interview with Lawrence H. Aller, 1979 August 18. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Van de Kamp, Peter, 1901-. Three conferences on astronomy and cosmology [motion picture] / photographed by Peter Van de Kamp. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Osterbrock, Donald E. Oral history interview with Donald E. Osterbrock, 1982 January 21. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. The Emilio Segrè visual archives, E-J, [ca. 1870]-9999. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Struve, Otto, 1897-1963. Selected correspondence [microform], 1932-1945. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Miller, Henry, 1891-1980. Letter from Henry Miller to Jesse L. Greenstein. 1943, Dec. 3. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn History of Modern Astrophysics Collection, 1849-1979 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Greenstein, Jesse L. (Jesse Leonard), 1909-2002. Oral history interview with Jesse Leonard Greenstein, 1977 April 7 to 1978 May 19. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Edmondson, Frank K. (Frank Kelley), 1912-. History of AURA : interviews and documentation, 1978-1991. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Greenstein, Jesse L. (Jesse Leonard), 1909-2002. Papers, 1923-1992. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Kraft, Robert P. (Robert Paul), 1927-. Oral history interview with Robert P. Kraft, 2002 August 1, 2. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Babcock, Horace W. Oral history interview with Horace W. Babcock, 1977, July 25. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn O'Dell, C. Robert (Charles Robert), 1937-. Oral history interview with Charles Robert O'Dell, 1985 May 21 to 23. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Sandage, Allan. Oral history interview with Allan R. Sandage, 1978 May 22 and 23. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Münch Galindo, Guido. Oral history interview with Guido Münch, 1977 July 7. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973. Oral history interview with Ira Sprague Bowen, 1968 August 9 and 26 August 1969. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Hall, J. L. (John L.), 1934-. Oral history interview with John L. Hall, 1979 February 21. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Jesse L. Greenstein papers, 1923-1992 California Institute of Technology. Archives.
creatorOf Wright, F. E. (Frederic Eugene), 1877-1953. Papers of Frederic Eugene Wright, 1924-1961. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Burbidge, E. Margaret. Oral history interview with Margaret Burbidge, 1978 July 13. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf American Physical Society. Annual Meeting (1981 : New York, N.Y.). Joint symposium of the Division of Electron and Atomic Physics and the American Association of Physics Teachers [sound recording] : History of spectroscopy / 1981 January 28. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Spinrad, Hyron, 1934-. Oral history interview with Hyron Spinrad, 1977 July 19. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Greenstein, Jesse L. (Jesse Leonard), 1909-. Letter from Jesse L. Greenstein to William Carlos Williams. 1939, Nov. 19. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973. Papers of Ira Sprague Bowen, 1940-1973. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Spitzer, Lyman, 1914-. Oral history interview with Lyman Spitzer, Jr., 1977 April 8 and 1978 May 10. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Van de Kamp, Peter, 1901-. Symposium on the galaxy [motion picture] / taken by Peter Van de Kamp, 1950. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Goldberg, Leo. Oral history interview with Leo Goldberg, 1978 May 16 to 1982. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Arp, Halton C. Oral history interview with Halton Christian Arp, 1975 July 29. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Fowler, William A. Oral history interview with William Alfred Fowler, 1972 June 8, 1973 Feb. 5, 1974 May 30. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Abell, George O. (George Ogden), 1927-1983. Oral history interview with George Ogden Abell, 1977 November 14. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Ferris, Timothy. Interviews conducted for book, THE RED LIMIT, 1974-1976. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Bok, Bart J. (Bart Jan), 1906-1983. Oral history interview with Bart Jan Bok, 1978 May 15 to 14 June. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn American Tentative Society. Rennie Taylor Symposium on the new Astronomy raw footage [videorecording] ; 1982 February 15 to 18. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Greenstein, Jesse L. (Jesse Leonard), 1909-2002. Oral history interview with Jesse Leonard Greenstein, 1982 February 25, and March 16 and 23, 1982. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963. Letter from William Carlos Williams to Jesse L. Greenstein. 1939, Jan. 12. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Field, George B., 1929-. Oral history interview with George Brooks Field, 1980 July 14 and 15. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abell, George O. (George Ogden), 1927-1983. person
associatedWith Adams, Walter S. (Walter Sydney), 1876-1956. person
associatedWith Aller, Lawrence H. (Lawrence Hugh), 1913-2003. person
associatedWith American Physical Society. Annual Meeting (1981 : New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith American Tentative Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Arp, Halton C. person
associatedWith Baade, Walter, 1893-1960. person
associatedWith Babcock, Horace W. person
associatedWith Bok, Bart J. (Bart Jan), 1906-1983. person
associatedWith Bowen, E. G. person
associatedWith Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973. person
associatedWith Burbidge, E. Margaret. person
associatedWith California Institute of Technology. corporateBody
associatedWith California Institute of Technology Dept. of Astronomy. corporateBody
associatedWith Carnegie Institute. corporateBody
associatedWith Carnegie Institution of Washington. corporateBody
associatedWith Center for History of Physics (American Institute of Physics) corporateBody
associatedWith Chandrasekhar, S. (Subrahmanyan), 1910- person
associatedWith Columbia University. corporateBody
associatedWith DuBridge, Lee A. (Lee Alvin), 1901-1994. person
associatedWith Edmondson, Frank K. (Frank Kelley), 1912- person
associatedWith Ferris, Timothy. person
associatedWith Field, George B., 1929- person
associatedWith Fowler, William A. person
associatedWith Gaposchkin, Cecilia Helena Payne, 1900- person
associatedWith Goldberg, Leo. person
associatedWith Hale Observatories. corporateBody
associatedWith Hall, J. L. (John L.), 1934- person
associatedWith Harvard College Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard University. corporateBody
associatedWith Hoyle, Fred, Sir. person
associatedWith Hubble, Edwin Powell, 1889-1953. person
associatedWith Kitt Peak National Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith Kraft, Robert P. (Robert Paul), 1927- person
associatedWith Kuiper, Gerard P. (Gerard Peter), 1905-1973. person
associatedWith Lauritsen, Charles Christian, 1892-1968. person
associatedWith Lick Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith McDonald Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith Menzel, Donald H. (Donald Howard), 1901-1976. person
associatedWith Merrill, Paul W. person
associatedWith Miller, Henry, 1891-1980. person
associatedWith Morgan, W. W. (William Wilson), 1906-1994. person
associatedWith Mount Wilson Solar Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith Münch Galindo, Guido. person
associatedWith Münch, Guido, person
associatedWith National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Science Foundation (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Niels Bohr Library. corporateBody
associatedWith O'Dell, C. Robert (Charles Robert), 1937- person
associatedWith Osterbrock, Donald E. person
associatedWith Palomar Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith Prud'homme, Rachel, person
associatedWith Russell, Henry Norris, 1877-1957. person
associatedWith Sandage, Allan. person
associatedWith Sandage, Allan, 1926- person
associatedWith Schmidt, Maarten. person
associatedWith Schmidt, Maarten, 1929- person
associatedWith Schwarzschild, Martin. person
associatedWith Shapley, Harlow, 1885-1972. person
associatedWith Spinrad, Hyron, 1934- person
associatedWith Spitzer, Lyman, 1914- person
associatedWith Strömgren, Bengt, 1908- person
associatedWith Struve, Otto, 1897-1963. person
associatedWith Teller, Edward, 1908-2003. person
associatedWith Tolman, Richard C. (Richard Chace), 1881-1948. person
associatedWith Trimble, Virginia L., 1943- person
associatedWith Trumpler, Robert. person
associatedWith Tuve, Merle Antony, 1901-1982. person
associatedWith United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Chicago. corporateBody
associatedWith Unsöld, Albrecht, 1905- person
associatedWith Van de Kamp, Peter, 1901- person
associatedWith Weart, Spencer R., 1942- person
associatedWith Whipple, Fred L. (Fred Lawrence), 1906-2004. person
correspondedWith Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963. person
associatedWith Wright, F. E. (Frederic Eugene), 1877-1953. person
associatedWith Wright, Paul, person
associatedWith Yerkes Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith Zwicky, F. (Fritz), 1898-1974. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
Astronomy--Societies, etc.--Administration
Peculiar stars--Research
Science consultants
Telescopes
Nebulae
Astrophysics--Study and teaching
Astronomy
Spectrum analysis
White dwarf stars--Research
Women scientists
Students--Employment--20th century
Astronomy--Study and teaching
Science and industry
Cosmic abundances--Research
Literature--Study and teaching
Nuclear physics
Interstellar matter
Stars--Atmospheres
Computers
Astronomical observatories--Administration
Astrophysics
General relativity (Physics)
Astronomy--Research
Optics
Peculiar stars--Spectra
Radio astronomy
Peculiar stars--Constitution
White dwarf stars
Astronomy--Popularization
World War, 1939-1945--Science
Optics--Designs and plans
Cosmology
Astronomical instruments
Artificial satellites--Tracking
Stars--Composition
Quasars
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1909-10-15

Death 2002-10-21

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