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Struve, Otto

        Science | Astronomers

Struve (STROO veh), Otto (1897 - 1963) was a Kussian-born American astronomer who belonged to a family of distinguished scientists that included six astronomers over four generations, he being the last. He did research in the field of stellar spectroscopy, the study of stars by analyzing the light rays they emit, and had an enduring interest in stars with unusual spectra. His discoveries and observations greatly furthered the expansion of astrophysics in the United States in the 1900's.

Struve studied at the University of Kharkov but, after serving in the White Eussian Army during the Bolshevik Revolution, escaped to Turkey where he remained until being offered a position at the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory. He emigrated in 1921 and received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago in 1923. He became a U.S. citizen in 1927. As director of the observatory, beginning in 1932, he hired some of the most promising and highly skilled astronomers of the time. He also helped found the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas in 1939 and after it opened was director there as well. In 1950, he was appointed chairman of the University of California-Berkeley's astronomy department and director of the Leuschner Observatory there.

Among Struve's contributions to stellar spectroscopy were his spectroscopic observations of double stars, clarification of the distribution and dynamics of interstellar calcium, use of the Stark effect in line spectra to determine the absolute magnitudes of many hot B-type stars, and spectroscopic studies of stellar rotation. He also gathered a great deal of data on stellar atmospheres and was a prolific writer, publishing numerous papers and popular articles on astronomical developments. His many awards include the Royal Astronomical Society's Gold Medal, the Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the G. Bruce Blair Award from the Western Amateur Astronomers, and the National Academy of Sciences' Draper Medal. He was also decorated as Chevalier by the Order of the Crown, in Belgium.