Russell, Henry Norris

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Russell, Henry Norris,

1877–1957, American astronomer, b. Oyster Bay, N.Y., grad. Princeton, 1897. In 1902 he went to Cambridge, England, to study. He returned to Princeton in 1905, was professor of astronomy there (1911–27), research professor (1927–47), and director of the observatory (1912–47). In 1947 he became research associate at the Harvard Observatory. Russell established a method of determining the dimensions of eclipsing binary stars. With Ejnar HertzsprungHertzsprung, Ejnar
, 1873–1967, Danish astronomer. Although trained as a chemical engineer, Hertzsprung made his career in astronomy, specializing in exacting photographic observations of stars. In 1905 he discovered high-luminosity, or giant, stars.
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 he devised the Hertzsprung-Russell diagramHertzsprung-Russell diagram
[for Ejnar Hertzsprung and H. N. Russell], graph showing the luminosity of a star as a function of its surface temperature. The luminosity, or absolute magnitude, increases upwards on the vertical axis; the temperature (or some temperature-dependent
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. His spectroscopic studies resulted in his development of a theory of stellar evolutionstellar evolution,
life history of a star, beginning with its condensation out of the interstellar gas (see interstellar matter) and ending, sometimes catastrophically, when the star has exhausted its nuclear fuel or can no longer adjust itself to a stable configuration.
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. He wrote Determinations of Stellar Parallax (1911), Astronomy (1926–27), Fate and Freedom (1927), The Solar System and Its Origin (1935), and The Masses of the Stars (with C. E. Moore, 1940).


See biography by D. H. DeVorkin (2000).

Russell, Henry Norris


Born Oct. 25, 1877, in Oyster Bay, New York; died Feb. 18, 1957, in Princeton. American astronomer.

Russell graduated in 1900 from Princeton University, where he was a professor in the period 1911–47. From 1912 to 1947 he was director of the astronomical observatory at Princeton University. Russell was the author of works on astrophysics, stellar astronomy, and cosmogony. His most important works dealt with the classification of stars, the determination of stellar masses and stellar parallaxes, the calculation of the orbits of binary stars, in particular eclipsing variable stars, the application of ionization theory to astronomical phenomena, and the determination of the brightness and albedo of the planets. Russell established the relationship between the luminosity of stars and their spectral class. He originated one of the first hypotheses regarding stellar evolution.


Determinations of Stellar Parallax. Washington, D.C., 1911.
The Masses of the Stars. Chicago, 1940.
In Russian translation:
Astronomiia, vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934–1935. (With R. S. Dugan and J. Q. Stewart.)
Solnechnaia sistema i eeproiskhozhdenie. Moscow-Leningrad, 1944.

Russell, Henry Norris

(1877–1957) astronomer; born in Oyster Bay, N.Y. After five years of research at Cambridge University, England (1900–05), he returned to Princeton, his alma mater, to teach astronomy and study cosmogeny and stellar evolution. He directed the Princeton Observatory (1912–47) and then worked as a research associate at the Harvard Observatory (1947–52). In 1913 the so-called Hertzsprung-Russell diagram established the relationship between a star's brightness and its type of spectra. His theory of stellar evolution has since been replaced, but his theory of the composition of stars is still widely accepted. He was among the first to postulate the existence of millions of solar systems and of planets capable of supporting life; he also recognized the major role of hydrogen in the universe. He wrote several important books including the two-volume textbook Astronomy (1927), and Fate and Freedom (1927) and The Solar System and Its Origin (1935). Known as the "dean of American astronomers," he was awarded six gold medals and elected to many scientific societies.
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