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Young, Charles Augustus

Young, Charles Augustus

Young, Charles Augustus

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Young, Charles Augustus (1834-1908) was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, of a family long connected with Dartmouth College. He graduated from Dartmouth, at eighteen, at the head of his class. When he was thirty-one, he was appointed to a professorship of science at Dartmouth previously held by his father and his maternal grandfather; eleven years later he accepted a call to Princeton to succeed Stephen Alexander as professor of astronomy and to become first director of the Observatory.

Young was an authority on the sun and a pioneer in spectrum analysis. He devised the automatic spectroscope, which later came into general use, and his observations led to an improved list of important features of the spectrum of the sun. He organized expeditions to different parts of the world to observe solar eclipses, on one of them observing for the first time the reversal of the lines of the solar spectrum -- the "reversing layer" -- for which he received the Janssen Medal of the French Academy of Sciences. He also made the first good quantitative determination of the rate of rotation of the sun. He served a term as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

His book The Sun (1881) went into numerous editions and was translated into several languages; his four textbooks, which were widely used, were generally considered to be among the best in astronomy ever written. His teaching was also, according to his most brilliant student, Henry Norris Russell, "superb."

Young was admired by undergraduates, who called him "Twinkle" (as much for the bright, kindly flash of his eye as for his subject), and by the faculty, who thought him "in gifts and character . . . the ideal man of science." At Commencement in 1905, the year he retired, the trustees gave him an honorary LL.D., and the students rose and gave him a triple cheer.

The day he died -- January 3, 1908 -- at his family home in Hanover, New Hampshire, there was a total eclipse of the sun.

Young's entry in Wikipedia

Text: Leitch, pp. 534-535