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Harlow Shapley

Born: 2-Nov-1885
Birthplace: Nashville, MO
Died: 20-Oct-1972
Location of death: Boulder, CO
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Sharon Cemetery, Sharon, NH

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Organizer of Heaven

Harlow Shapley studied under Henry Norris Russell at Princeton, where he wrote a groundbreaking doctoral dissertation on eclipsing binary stars. He later developed the galactic distance scale, showing that the galaxy is much larger than had been generally believed, and found the approximate center of the galaxy some 20 kiloparsecs away. Succeeding Edward Charles Pickering as Director of the Harvard College Observatory, he showed that the Milky Way is younger than had previously been believed, and working with astronomer Adelaide Ames he showed that nearby galaxies are not uniformly distributed. He also held, incorrectly, that the Milky Way comprised most of the universe, and that luminous nebulae were mere clouds of glowing gas; on this point he was eventually corrected by Edwin Hubble. Shapley also conducted decades of amateur study of ants.

During World War II Shapley kept in contact with foreign astronomers, even Axis astronomers from Germany and Romania. Working with fellow Harvard astronomer Bart Jan Bok and with skeptical oversight by US intelligence, Shapley self-published a mimeographed Monthly Astronomical Newsletter to share stellar discoveries regardless of national allegiances during a time when science was otherwise turned to the war effort. At the close of World War II, Shapley was co-founder of the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and he later lobbied for establishment of the National Science Foundation. All of his children worked in science, and his son, Willis Shapley, conducted research for President John F. Kennedy that established the feasibility of space exploration, and formed the foundation of Kennedy's 1961 speech announcing America's goal "before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth".

Father: Willis Shapley (farmer-teacher)
Mother: Sarah Stowell Shapley
Sister: Lillian Shapley Golladay
Brother: Horace Shapley (b. 2-Nov-1885 twin)
Brother: John Shapley
Wife: Martha Betz Shapley (astronomer, b. 1890, d. 1981)
Daughter: Mildred Shapley Matthews (author-astronomer)
Son: Alan Shapley (geophysicist, b. 1919, d. 2006)
Son: Lloyd Shapley (mathematician, b. 1923)
Son: Willis Shapley (NASA official, b. 1917, d. 2005)
Son: Carl Shapley (founded New World Educational Foundation)

    High School: Carthage Academy, Chanute, MO (1906)
    University: BA Astronomy, University of Missouri (1910)
    University: MA Astronomy, University of Missouri (1911)
    University: PhD Astronomy, Princeton University (1914)
    Scholar: Mt. Wilson Observatory (1914-21)
    Professor: Harvard College Observatory, Harvard University (1921-52)

    Benjamin Franklin Medal 1945 (by the Franklin Institute)
    Bruce Medal 1939
    Rumford Prize 1933
    Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal 1934
    Henry Draper Medal 1926
    American Astronomical Society President (1943-46)
    American Association for the Advancement of Science President (1947)
    Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society

Appears on the cover of:
Time, 29-Jul-1935, DETAILS: "Harvard's Harlow Shapley: Organizer of Heaven"

Author of books:
The Scale of the Universe (1921)
Starlight (1926)
The Stars (1927)
A Source Book in Astronomy (1929)
The Universe of Stars (1929)
Flights from Chaos (1930)
Star Clusters (1930)
A Treasury of Science (1943)
Galaxies (1943)
Readings in the Physical Sciences (1948)
Climatic Change: Evidence, Causes, and Effects (1953)
Science Ponders Religion (1960)
Of Stars and Men: The Human Response to An Expanding Universe (1960)
Through Rugged Ways to the Stars (1969)


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