Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

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Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan

(so͝ob'rəmän`yən chŭn'drəsā`kər), 1910–95, American astrophysicist, b. Lahore, India (now Pakistan). He became a professor at the Univ. of Chicago in 1938 and remained associated with the university until his death. In 1953 he became an American citizen. Chandrasekhar was a major figure in the research on energy transfer by radiation in stellar atmospheres. He determined the Chandrasekhar limit, which states that stars 1.44 times as massive as the sun will collapse and become neutron starsneutron star,
extremely small, extremely dense star, with as much as double the sun's mass but only a few miles in radius, in the final stage of stellar evolution. Astronomers Baade and Zwicky predicted the existence of neutron stars in 1933.
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. In 1983 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics with William A. FowlerFowler, William Alfred,
1911–95, American nuclear astrophysicist, b. Pittsburgh. While a professor at the California Institute of Technology, Fowler studied how chemical elements are formed in nuclear reactions, especially in the evolution of stars.
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 for their theories regarding the evolution of massive stars. Chandrasekhar's work advanced the understanding of black holesblack hole,
in astronomy, celestial object of such extremely intense gravity that it attracts everything near it and in some instances prevents everything, including light, from escaping.
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, supernovassupernova,
a massive star in the latter stages of stellar evolution that suddenly contracts and then explodes, increasing its energy output as much as a billionfold. Supernovas are the principal distributors of heavy elements throughout the universe; all elements heavier than
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, and neutron stars. His books include An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure (1939), Principles of Stellar Dynamics (1943), Radiative Transfer (1950), and The Mathematical Theory of Black Holes (1983).


See A. I. Miller, Empire of the Stars: Obsession, Friendship, and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes (2005).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan


Born Oct. 19, 1910, in Lahore, India (now in Pakistan). American physicist and astrophysicist.

Chandrasekhar graduated from the University of Madras in 1930. He received a Ph.D. degree from Cambridge University in 1933 and taught at Cambridge until 1936. He moved to the USA in 1936, becoming an American citizen in 1953. In 1937 he joined the staff of Yerkes Observatory and the faculty of the University of Chicago; he became a professor at the university in 1942.

Chandrasekhar’s main works deal with stellar structure, stellar atmospheres, and the dynamics of stellar atmospheres, as well as with mathematical physics, in particular, the theory of stochastic processes. Chandrasekhar developed a theory of white dwarfs that predicts the existence of a mass limit for white dwarfs, which is known as Chandrasekhar’s limit, and gives a universal relationship between the mass and the radius of a star; the relationship specifies the final stages of stellar evolution. Chandrasekhar also studied the dynamics of stellar systems and radiative transfer in plane-parallel stellar atmospheres. He examined problems of hydrodynamic and hydromagnetic stability in the framework of the general theory of relativity.

Chandrasekhar became a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1944 and is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.


In Russian translation:
Stokhasticheskieproblemy v fizike i astronomii. Moscow, 1947.
Printsipy zvezdnoi dinamiki. Moscow, 1948.
Vvedenie v uchenie o stroenii zvezd. Moscow, 1950.
Perenos luchistoi energii. Moscow, 1953.
Ellipsoidal’nye figury ravnovesiia. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan

(1910–  ) astrophysicist; born in Lahore, India (now Pakistan). As a fellow at Trinity, Cambridge University (1933–37), he developed his theory of white dwarfs, "collapsed" stars of enormous density, such that their mass does not exceed 1.4 times the mass of the sun (the Chandrasekhar limit). Since such a small, dense body allows no radiation to escape, Chandrasekhar's theory predicted the existence of what are now known as "black holes." When his ideas were publicly derided by the respected English physicist Arthur Eddington, the distraught Chandrasekhar emigrated to the University of Chicago (1937), and remained there until his retirement (1980). His theory was vindicated, and he continued his research on relativistic astrophysics, winning the 1983 Nobel Prize for his contribution to knowledge of evolution of the stars.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.