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John S. Plaskett

AKA John Stanley Plaskett

Born: 17-Nov-1865
Birthplace: Hickson, Ontario, Canada
Died: 17-Oct-1941
Location of death: Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada
Cause of death: unspecified

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

Nationality: Canada
Executive summary: Plaskett's star

John S. Plaskett's father died when he was 16, and he quit high school to help tend the farm. He later worked as a mechanic, and was eventually hired as a mechanic and handy-man by the physics department at the University of Toronto. There his curiosity was ignited, and at the age of 30 he enrolled as a student, graduating in 1899. He was hired at Ottawa's Dominion Observatory in 1903 -- still as a mechanic -- but in 1905 he was promoted to astronomer, beginning his career at the age of 40.

In 1922 he discovered Plaskett's star (or Plaskett's twins), a massive binary star previously thought to be a single star. He confirmed Jan Hendrik Oort's model of galactic rotation, added evidence to support Arthur Eddington's theory that interstellar matter is widely distributed throughout the Galaxy, and showed that the stationary lines of ionized calcium in the spectra of hot stars are caused by clouds of interstellar gas. He lobbied for construction of the much larger Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, and designed its 72-inch telescope, at the time the largest telescope in the world. He also conducted important work on radial velocities, the spectra of O and B-type stars, and spectroscopic binaries.

Father: Joseph Plaskett
Mother: Annie Plaskett
Wife: Rebecca Plaskett (two sons)
Son: Harry H. Plaskett (astronomer)
Son: Stuart Plaskett

    High School: Woodstock High School, Woodstock, Ontario, Canada (dropped out)
    University: BS Physics, University of Toronto (1899)
    Scholar: Dominion Observatory (1903-17)
    Administrator: Director of Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (1917-35)

    Henry Draper Medal 1934
    Bruce Medal 1932
    Flavelle Medal 1932
    Rumford Prize 1930
    Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal 1930
    Commander of the British Empire
    Edison Electric Company (1885-90)
    Royal Astronomical Society of Canada President (1914-15)
    Lunar Crater Plaskett
    Asteroid Namesake 2905 Plaskett (with son, astronomer Harry H. Plaskett)

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