Date: 03 Sep 2014

Curtis, Heber Doust

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BornMuskegon, Michigan, USA, 27 June 1872

DiedAnn Arbor, Michigan, USA, 9 January 1942

A man of many talents – classicist, linguist, and astronomer – Heber Curtis displayed a keen eye for recognizing the most pressing astronomical problems of his era. After being surpassed on several fronts, Curtis shifted from notable observer to capable administrator, where he continued to guide the research of others. His name appears most often now in connection with the 1920 Curtis-Shapley debate on the distance scale of the universe.

Curtis, elder son of Orson Blair Curtis and Sarah Eliza Doust, moved with his family to Detroit when he was 7. Curtis’s father, a Civil War veteran, had been wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg but survived the amputation of his left arm. Orson Curtis nonetheless completed his education at the University of Michigan and later secured a position with the United States Customs Service in Detroit. Curtis’s mother, a native of Maidstone, England, was educated at Albion ...