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Ira S. Bowen

AKA Ira Sprague Bowen

Born: 21-Dec-1898
Birthplace: Seneca Falls, NY
Died: 6-Feb-1973
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Astronomer, Mathematician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Debunked nebulium

Astronomer Ira S. Bowen studied under Robert A. Millikan, and researched ultraviolet spectroscopy. His work showed that nebulium, a hypothetical element proposed by William Huggins as the cause of unfamiliar lines in the spectra of far-off nebulae, was actually just oxygen and nitrogen. He invented the image slicer (which greatly increased the efficiency of gaseous nebulae observations), made substantial improvements to telescope technologies, and introduced the practice of baking photographic plates to improve their sensitivity. He discovered what is now known as the Bowen ratio, the mathematical expression of the ratio of heat conduction to evaporative flux at the air-water interface, now a standard rule of meteorology and oceanography. Friends called him Ike.

Father: James H. Bowen (Methodist minister, d. 1908)
Mother: Philinda Sprague Bowen (teacher)
Brother: Ward Bowen
Wife: Mary Jane Howard Bowen (child psychologist, m. 12-Jul-1929, no children)

    High School: (1915)
    University: Houghton College (attended)
    University: BA, Oberlin College (1919)
    University: University of Chicago (attended 1919-21)
    Teacher: Physics, University of Chicago (1920-21)
    Teacher: Physics, California Institute of Technology (1921-31)
    University: PhD, California Institute of Technology (1926)
    Professor: Physics, California Institute of Technology (1931-45)
    Administrator: Director of Mt. Wilson Observatory (1946-64)
    Administrator: Director of Palomar Observatory, California Institute of Technology (1948-64)

    Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal 1966
    Bruce Medal 1957
    Rumford Prize 1949
    Henry Draper Medal 1942
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Astronomical Society
    National Academy of Sciences
    Asteroid Namesake 3363 Bowen
    Canadian Ancestry
    English Ancestry


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