and pioneer of astrophysics. He revolutionized astronomy by using spectroscopy
to determine the chemical make-up of stars and by using photography
in stellar spectroscopy.
Huggins was born in London, where he ran the family drapery business
until 1854. He then built a private observatory at Tulse Hill, London,
and devoted himself entirely to science.
In 1860, with his friend W A Miller (a professor of chemistry), Huggins
designed a spectroscope and attached it to the telescope. By observing
the spectral lines of stars, he established that the universe was made
up of well-known elements. At that time, some nebulae had been observed
to be faint clusters of stars, but others could not be resolved without
more powerful telescopes. Huggins realized that if they were composed
of stars, they would give a characteristic stellar spectrum. However,
when he turned to the unresolved nebulae in the constellation of Draco
in 1864, only a single bright line was observed. Seeing this, he understood
the nature of unresolved nebulae: they were clouds of luminous gas and
not clusters of stars.