Otto von Struve
(1897-1963)

 

Russian-born US astronomer who developed a nebular spectrograph to study interstellar gas clouds. In 1938 he showed that ionized hydrogen is present in interstellar matter. He also determined that the interstellar hydrogen is concentrated in the galactic plane.
Struve was born in Kharkov, where his father Ludwig von Struve was director of the observatory. He served in the Imperial Russian Army on the Turkish front during World War I, then graduated from Kharkov. Conscripted into the counterrevolutionary White Army during the Civil War in 1919, he fled to Turkey in 1920 and emigrated to the USA 1921. He worked at the Yerkes Observatory, becoming its director 1932. He was professor of astrophysics at Chicago 1932-50 and at the University of California at Berkeley 1950-59. He was also the founder of the McDonald Observatory in Texas, and the first director of the National Radioastronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia. In 1962 he was appointed joint professor of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and the California Institute of Technology.
Struve did early work on stellar rotation and demonstrated the rotation of blue giant stars and the relationship between stellar temperature (and hence spectral type) and speed of rotation. In 1931 he found, as he had anticipated, that stars that spun at a high rate deposited gaseous material around their equators.
Struve believed that the establishment of a planetary system should be thought of as the normal course of events in stellar evolution and not a freak occurrence.


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