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Ejnar Hertzsprung

Born: 8-Oct-1873
Birthplace: Copenhagen, Denmark
Died: 21-Oct-1967
Location of death: Roskilde, Denmark
Cause of death: unspecified

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

Nationality: Denmark
Executive summary: Hertzsprung-Russell diagram

Ejnar Hertzsprung's father had studied astronomy, but earned his living as an insurance executive. The younger Hertzsprung was fascinated with his father's charts of the heavens, but, not wanting a career in insurance himself, he studied as a chemist. He briefly worked in Wilhelm Ostwald's laboratory, and in 1902, while still working as a chemist, he began volunteering at Urania Observatory in Copenhagen. In 1905 he published his first paper on astronomy, proposing a relationship between the spectrum and luminosity of stars. He finally switched careers in 1909, giving up chemistry to accept Karl Schwarzschild's offer to lecture in astronomy at Göttingen. Schwarzschild wrote in his notes, "Hertzsprung thinks all the time, I -- only occasionally".

As early as 1906, Hertzsprung plotted the absolute magnitude of stars in relation to their luminosity, classification, and effective temperature. In 1910 he met with American astronomer Henry Norris Russell, who had reached very similar conclusions independently, and the two astronomers merged their results as the Hertzsprung-Russell (or H-R) diagram, published in 1913, which remains a cornerstone of modern astrophysics. Hertzsprung also developed a vastly improved method to determine the relative positions of the components of double stars, and published important papers on the evolution of open star-clusters and variable stars. He spent 25 years at the Leiden Observatory, the last nine years as Director, and was among the last self-taught astronomers to oversee a major observatory.

Father: Severin Hertzsprung (insurance executive, b. 1839, d. 1893)
Wife: Henrietta Hertzsprung-Kapteyn (div.)

    University: BS Chemistry, Copenhagen Technical Institute (1898)
    Scholar: Photochemistry, University of Leipzig
    Scholar: Urania Observatory
    Teacher: Astronomy, University of Göttingen (1909)
    Scholar: Astrophysical Observatory, Potsdam, Germany (1909-19)
    Scholar: Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden (1919-35)
    Professor: Astronomy, University of Leiden (1919-44)
    Administrator: Director of Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden (1935-44)

    Bruce Medal 1937
    Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal 1929
    Royal Astronomical Society
    Asteroid Namesake 1693 Hertzsprung
    Lunar Crater Hertzsprung Crater

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