William Huggins
(1824-1910)

 

English astronomer 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.


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