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Star Man

Lawrence Bush
April 9, 2017

Astronomer Martin Schwarzschild, a refugee from Nazi Germany who spent most of his professional life as a professor of astronomy at Princeton University, died at 84 on this date in 1997. Schwarzschild was the first scientist to use hot-air balloons to carry telescopes and other instruments into the stratosphere in order to obtain data and unusual images of the sun (he proved the existence of solar convection). His 1958 book, Structure and Evolution of the Stars, taught a generation of astrophysicists how to use computers to develop stellar models. Schwarzschild’s work focused on the structure and evolution of stars, in particular how they become red giants towards the end of their existence. He was admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1954 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1956, and was president of the American Astronomical Society from 1970 to 1972. Asteroid 4463 Marschwarzchild, discovered in 1954, was named in his honor.

“[M]any of us scientists are moving into research undertakings of such physical magnitude that our successes and failures, just as those of the politicians, are becoming accessible to public scrutiny, and since they consume large public funds, they should properly be under such public scrutiny.”--Martin Schwarzschild

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.