Hale, George Ellery

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Hale, George Ellery,

1868–1938, American astronomer, b. Chicago, grad. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1890. He founded and directed three great observatories (Yerkes, Mt. Wilson, and Palomar), each in its time the greatest in the world, and was active in organizing interdisciplinary scientific societies nationally and internationally. In 1895 he founded the Astrophysical Journal, which remains the leading publication in its field. He had a unique talent for raising funds from private sources in the days before massive governmental support of scientific research. The 200-in. (508-cm) reflector at Palomar Mt. is named the Hale telescope in his honor, and the Mt. Wilson and Palomar observatories were renamed (1969–86) the Hale Observatories. In his own work he pioneered the experimental study of the physical nature of the sun and stars. His observatories were also laboratories employing the latest in photographic and spectrographic techniques. In 1890 he invented the spectroheliographspectroheliograph,
device for photographing the surface of the sun in a single wavelength of light, usually one corresponding to a chief element contained in the sun, e.g., hydrogen or calcium; the resulting photograph is called a spectroheliogram.
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, which led to the discovery of magnetic fields and vortices in sunspots. Although he studied in Germany with Helmholtz and Planck, served as the first professor of astrophysics at the Univ. of Chicago, and received many prizes and medals from scientific academies around the world, he never completed the requirements for his Ph.D. Besides technical monographs, he wrote popular books, including Depths of the Universe (1924), Beyond the Milky Way (1926), and Signals from the Stars (1931).

Hale, George Ellery


Born June 29, 1868, in Chicago; died Feb. 21, 1938, in Pasadena, Calif. American astronomer. Member of the National Academy of Sciences (1902).

Hale graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1890 and became a professor at the University of Chicago in 1897. He was director of the Yerkes Observatory from 1895 to 1905 and of the Mount Wilson Observatory from 1904 to 1923. Hale’s principal works are devoted to solar and stellar research. He is known for his use of the spectrohelioscope, the spectroheli-ograph, and the tower telescope to make solar observations. He predicted and verified with observational data the existence of magnetic fiel-s in sunspots. Hale was the founder and first editor of the Astrophysical Journal (1895).


“The Spectrohelioscope and Its Work, parts 1–2.” Astrophysical Journal, 1929, vol. 70, pp. 265–311; 1930, vol. 71, pp. 73–101.

Hale, George Ellery

(1868–1938) astronomer; born in Chicago. Doctors thought him too intense and anxious as a child (and he would suffer three breakdowns in his lifetime). While a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he made astronomical observations at his own "Kenwood Observatory" at his home. In 1889, while on a Chicago trolley, he got the idea for the spectroheliograph, an instrument for measuring solar prominences in the daytime. His main work as an astronomer was in solar research and he wrote some 450 articles and books. Cognizant of the importance of institutions in fostering science, he cofounded the Astrophysical Journal (1895), held the organizing meeting of the American Academy of Sciences (1899), and established the National Research Council (1916). His most enduring monuments are the three observatories he established. First he built a 40-inch telescope for the Yerkes Observatory, in Chicago, which he directed (1892–1904). Then he built a 100-inch telescope for Mt. Wilson, near Pasadena, Calif., which he directed (1904–23). His poor physical condition forced him to retire from Mt. Wilson but in 1928 he returned to lead the construction of a new observatory for the California Institute of Technology at Mt. Palomar, near San Diego, Calif., for which he designed a 200-inch telescope; it was not installed until 1948, when it was named the Hale telescope. In 1970 the two California observatories were named The Hale Observatories in his honor.
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