Reference Work Entry

The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 769-770

Menzel, Donald Howard

  • Thomas J. Bogdan

BornFlorence, Colorado, USA, 11 April 1901

DiedBoston, Massachusetts, USA, 14 December 1976

Donald Menzel combined astronomy and atomic physics to revolutionize our understanding of the physics of the Sun and gaseous nebulae. He founded three observatories and brought the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to Harvard College Observatory to enrich the scientific cultures of both institutions.

Menzel, the son of Charles Theodor and Ina Grace (née Zint) Menzel, was raised in Leadville and Denver, Colorado. In Leadville, his father worked as a telegrapher, clerk, and ticket salesman before becoming the proprietor of the city's largest general store. By 1916, the financial success of the store allowed Charles to retire, and the family moved to Denver, where Donald completed high school. As a schoolboy Menzel pursued numerous hobbies, suggested by his insatiable scientific curiosity. These in turn provided an outlet for an almost boundless energy that ...

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