Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 845-848


Greenstein, Jesse Leonard

  • Roy H. GarstangAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado 

BornNew York City, New York, USA, 15 October 1909

DiedDuarte, California, USA, 21 October 2002

American astrophysicist Jesse Greenstein discovered and clarified the properties of the largest sample of white dwarfs found up to that time. An outstanding administrator as well as scientist, he coordinated the most successful of the decadal reports, “Astrophysics for the 1970s.”

Greenstein went to Harvard University at the early age of 16 and majored in astronomy, obtaining his BA in 1929. He had planned to go to the University of Oxford, but a health problem prevented that, and so he remained at Harvard University. His first research was on the temperature scale for O and B stars. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin had found that some O and B stars had abnormally low color temperatures in spite of showing high-excitation lines in their spectra. Greenstein showed that the mean color temperatures were lowest in the directions of the Milky Way. His explanation in terms of atmospheric effect was incorrect: ...

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