A Bit of History
George Ellery Hale, who subsequently built the Mt. Wilson observatory, providing our graduate Edwin Hubble with the tools to discover the expansion of the Universe. Hale also co-founded the Astrophysical Journal, which was edited until 1971 within our Department. Other luminaries who have had strong associations with our Department are E. E. Barnard, Otto Struve, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Gerard Kuiper, William Morgan, Bengt Stromgren, David Schramm, and James Cronin among many others.
The astrophysics program at the University of Chicago began with the building of the Yerkes Observatory, in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, where the entire Department was located. By the mid-sixties it had become clear that ties to the intellectual community on campus needed to be strengthened, and there was a shift of the center of mass from Wisconsin to Chicago. All of the academic programs are now on campus.
Directors of Yerkes Observatory
George Ellery Hale
June 29, 1868 - February 21, 1938
Edwin Powell Hubble
November 20, 1889 - September 28, 1953
His studies at the University of Chicago were concentrated on mathematics, astronomy and philosophy, which led to a bachelor of science degree in 1910. Hubble also became a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity (and in 1948 was named the Kappa Sigma ''Man of the Year''). He spent the three years at The Queen's College, Oxford after earning his bachelors as one of the university's first Rhodes Scholars, initially studying jurisprudence instead of science (as a promise to his dying father), and later added literature and Spanish, and earning his master's degree.
He taught Spanish, physics, and mathematics at the New Albany High School in New Albany, Indiana for a year before he resolved to start over, at the age of 25, to become a professional astronomer. He also coached the boys' basketball team there. After a year of high-school teaching, he entered graduate school with the help of his former professor from the University of Chicago to study astronomy at the Yerkes Observatory of the University, where he received his PhD in 1917. His dissertation was titled Photographic Investigations of Faint Nebulae.
October 19, 1910 - August 21, 1995
Chandrasekhar served on the University of Chicago faculty from 1937 until his death in 1995.
October 25, 1945 - December 19, 1997
David Schramm was born in St. Louis, Missouri and earned his master's degree in physics from the MIT in 1967. He earned a Ph.D in physics at Caltech in 1971 under Willy Fowler. After a brief time as faculty at the University of Texas at Austin he accepted a professorship at the University of Chicago, where he spent the rest of his career.
James W. Cronin
September 29, 1931 - August 25, 2016
James W. Cronin was a visionary scientist who shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1980 for his groundbreaking work on the laws governing matter and antimatter. Cronin and Val Fitch showed that the Charge conjugation and Parity (CP) symmetry is broken in nature while studying kaons at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1964. The two scientists, who were Princeton University professors at the time, observed the first example of nature's preference for matter over antimatter, a key ingredient for the current dominance of matter over anti-matter in the Universe.
Cronin, SM'53, PhD'55, spent much of his career at the University of Chicago, first as a student and then a professor. He was faculty at Princeton from 1958 until returning to the University of Chicago as a University Professor in 1971. He became University Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy & Astrophysics in 1997.
Cronin shifted his focus to Astroparticle Physics in the 1980s. He led an international collaboration with hundreds of scientists from 19 countries to build the largest cosmic ray observatory, the Pierre Auger Observatory. The Auger Observatory covers 3,000 km2 in Argentina and is the most sensitive observatory for the highest energy particles ever observed.
Cronin inspired scientists worldwide to reach further into the unknown with his humility, deep intuition, solid scientific backing, and poetic vision.
James W. Cronin Memorial (September 30 - October 1, 2016)