Alumni: William W. Morgan, 1931
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1931

January 3, 1906 - June 21, 1994


William Wilson Morgan was an American astronomer and astrophysicist. The principal theme in Dr. Morgan's work was stellar and galaxy classification. He is also known for helping prove the existence of spiral arms in our galaxy. In addition to his scientific achievements he served as a professor and as astronomy director for University of Chicago, and was the managing editor for George Hale's Astrophysical Journal.

Scientific achievements
Along with Philip Keenan he developed the MK system for the classification of stars through their spectra. He also developed several galaxy morphological classification systems, including the first systems to use the physical, quantifiable properties of galaxies, as opposed to simple, qualitative, eyeball estimates favoured by Edwin Hubble. He invented the now widely used classification cD for massive galaxies in the centres of galaxy clusters. In 1970, along with astronomer Laura P. Bautz, they created the still-used Bautz-Morgan classification scheme for clusters, which identifies those containing cD galaxies as the richest, type I clusters.

He worked at Yerkes Observatory for much of his career, including acting as its director from 1960 to 1963. Along with Donald Osterbrock and Stewart Sharpless, he used distance measurements of O and B type stars to show the existence of spiral arms in the Milky Way Galaxy.

For a time, Morgan was managing editor of the Astrophysical Journal, a publication originally started by George Hale to promote scientific cooperation between the world's astrophysicists.