Whipple, Fred Lawrence

Whipple, Fred Lawrence,

1906–2004, American astronomer, b. Red Oak, Iowa. After graduating from the Univ. of California, Berkeley (Ph.D. 1931), he accepted a position at Harvard, where he remained for the rest of his career. During World War II he helped develop the aluminum chaff that was used to confuse enemy radar, but he is best known for proposing in a 1950 paper that cometscomet
[Gr.,=longhaired], a small celestial body consisting mostly of dust and gases that moves in an elongated elliptical or nearly parabolic orbit around the sun or another star. Comets visible from the earth can be seen for periods ranging from a few days to several months.
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 were frozen gases with other substances mixed in, not unlike a "dirty snowball." Whipple, who headed the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory from 1955 to 1973, also anticipated artificial satellites, establishing an early tracking station before the first Sputnik launch (1957).

Whipple, Fred Lawrence

(1906–  ) astronomer; born in Red Oak, Iowa. Educated at California University, he spent most of his career teaching at Harvard (1945). He wrote the standard Earth, Moon and Planets (1941). His 1950 theory that comets are like dirty snowballs in composition and behavior was not questioned until the 1990s. He brought the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to Cambridge (1955).