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George Ellery Hale’s Internationalism

  • David DeVorkin (a1)

Abstract

Throughout his career, George Ellery Hale thought globally. “Make no small plans” he was often heard to say (Seares 1939). His early sojourns to Europe, encountering the talent and resources in England and the Continent, contributed to his outlook. He knew that their patronage was critical to reach his personal goals. Here I outline the steps Hale took to establish the new “astrophysics” as a discipline, by creating the Astrophysical Journal, establishing a common language and then, through the first decades of the 20th Century, building an international collaboration to coordinate solar and later all astronomical research. The latter effort, which began in 1904, had expanded by 1910 to encompass stellar astronomy, when the Solar Union deliberated over spectroscopic classification systems, a standard wavelength system and stellar magnitude systems. This work continued through the fifth Union meeting in Bonn in 1913, which turned out to be the last because of the First World War. During the war, Hale became Chair of the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, applying scientific talent to winning the war. He was also the Academy’s Foreign Secretary, so Hale became deeply involved in re-establishing international scientific relations after the war. In conjunction with Arthur Schuster and Emile Picard, he helped found the International Research Council in 1919, which formed the framework within which the worlds of science reorganized themselves. From this, the International Astronomical Union was born. It was not an easy birth in a world still filled with tension and anger over the war; formative conferences in London and Brussels reflected the extremes. Nevertheless, its first General Assembly was held in Rome in 1922. It would be years before it became truly international, “in the complete sense of the word” (Elis Strömgren), but many of the proposals made during the years of the Solar Union concerning disciplinary standardization were ratified. I will concentrate on this latter story, remembering Hale for his devotion to true internationalism.

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References

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Berlin, I. 1953, The Hedgehog and the Fox, (UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Campbell, W. W. and Stebbins, J. 1920, Report on the Organization of the International Astronomical Union, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp. 349396
DeVorkin, D. 1981, Community and Spectral Classification in Astrophysics: The Acceptance of E. C. Pickering’s System in 1910, Isis, 72, pp. 2949
Hale, G. E. 1895, The Astrophysical Journal, ApJ, 1, 8081
Hale to Kapteyn, 27 May 1904; to Julius, 21 July 1904. Reel 21, Hale Papers, Microfilm Edition
Hale to Kapteyn, 15 June 1907. Hale Papers, Reel 21. Microfilm Edition
Hale to Rutherford, 1 June 1914. Hale Papers, Microfilm edition
Kevles, D. J. 1968, George Ellery Hale, the First World War, and the Advancement of Science in America, Isis, 59, No. 4, pp. 427437
Riccò, A. 1904, in I Moderni Studii Solari, Degli Spettroscopisti Italiani, 33, 79
Seares, F. H. 1939, George Ellery Hale: The Scientist Afield, Isis 30, 244, Quoted in Kevles (1968, p. 109)
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George Ellery Hale’s Internationalism

  • David DeVorkin (a1)

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