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Maarten Schmidt

Born: 28-Dec-1929
Birthplace: Groningen, Netherlands

Gender: Male
Religion: Agnostic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Astronomer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Co-Discoverer of quasars

Military service: Netherlands Army (1949)

Maarten Schmidt and Jesse L. Greenstein were the first astronomers to describe quasars, in 1963. Schmidt identified different wavelengths of quasar radiation, helping to establish quasars as among the oldest and most distant objects yet known in the universe, and theorized that if quasars are visible despite their great distance they must be almost unimaginably powerful. (Donald Lynden-Bell later established that quasars are powered by massive black holes.) Schmidt studied under Jan Hendrik Oort, and has also researched the exchange of matter between stars and gas clouds, and its effect of the mass distribution and dynamics of the Galaxy. Another noteworthy accomplishment on his résumé came in 1973, as NASA predicted a spectacular lightshow by the approaching Comet Kohoutek, but Schmidt correctly ascertained before the comet's arrival that NASA's brightness calculations were wildly exaggerated.

Wife: Corrie Schmidt (artist, m. 1955, two daughters)

    University: BS, Groningen University (1953)
    University: PhD, University of Leiden (1956)
    Scholar: Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden (1958-59)
    Scholar: Mt Wilson & Palomar Observatories, California Institute of Technology (1956-58, 1959-)
    Teacher: Astronomy, California Institute of Technology (1959-65)
    Professor: Astronomy, California Institute of Technology (1965-)
    Administrator: Director of Palomar Observatory, California Institute of Technology (1978-80)

    Kavli Prize 2008
    Bruce Medal 1992
    James Craig Watson Medal 1991
    Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal 1980
    Rumford Prize 1968
    Helen B. Warner Prize 1964
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Astronomical Society President (1984-86)
    National Academy of Sciences
    Naturalized US Citizen
    Dutch Ancestry
    Asteroid Namesake 10430 Martschmidt

Author of books:
Galactic Structure (1965, with Adriaan Blaauw)
Quasi-Stellar Objects (1969)


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