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Henry Draper

Born: 7-Mar-1837
Birthplace: Prince Edward County, VA
Died: 20-Nov-1882
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Respiratory failure
Remains: Buried, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Early astrophotographer

Physician and astronomer Henry Draper, son of astronomer John William Draper, took the first photograph of a star's spectrum in 1872, and eight years later took the first photos of a nebula. In 1881 he took the first wide-angle photograph of the tail of a comet, and the first spectrum photograph of a comet's head. His other photographic work included high-quality photographs of Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and numerous bright stars, and the best images of his time showing the spectra of the Sun and Moon. He constructed the instruments to capture these breakthrough images, including telescope clock drives that greatly improved the quality of extended exposure photos of the heavens. In 1861 he married Anna Mary Palmer, daughter of multi-millionaire Courtlandt Palmer, and she soon became his lab assistant, an expert at coating and developing her husband's wet-plate photographs.

Draper's career was cut short when he became ill after a Rocky Mountain hunting trip, and died at the age of 45. His widow made two endowments to carry on his work, which have made Draper perhaps more famous in death than in life. The Draper Medal is awarded by the National Academy of Sciences for outstanding contributions to astronomical physics, and the Henry Draper Catalog of Stellar Spectra -- a comprehensive cataloging of hundreds of thousands of stars -- was compiled by Edward Charles Pickering and Draper's niece, Antonia Maury, at the Harvard College Observatory.

Father: John William Draper (astronomer, b. 1811, d. 1882)
Mother: Antonia Coetana de Paiva Pereira Gardner Draper (b. circa 1814, m. 1831)
Brother: John Christopher Draper (physician-chemist, b. 1835, d. 1885)
Sister: Virginia Draper Maury (b. 1839, d. 1885)
Brother: Daniel Draper (meteorologist, b. 1841, d. 1931)
Brother: William Draper (b. 1845, d. 1853)
Sister: Antonia Draper Dixon (b. 1849, d. 1923)
Wife: Anna Mary Palmer (heiress, m. 1861, no children)

    Medical School: MD, New York University (1859)
    Professor: Physiology, New York University (1860-73)

    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Philosophical Society
    National Academy of Sciences
    Brazilian Ancestry (maternal)
    English Ancestry (paternal)

Author of books:
A Textbook on Chemistry: For the Use of Schools and Colleges (1866)


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