Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Smith, Sinclair

  • Virginia TrimbleEmail author
Reference work entry

BornChicago, Illinois, USA, 24 March 1899

DiedPasadena, California, USA, 8 May 1938

Sinclair Smith is best known to astronomers for his measurement of the gravitating mass of the Virgo cluster of galaxies in 1937, which confirmed the very large mass-to-light ratio that had been found for the Coma cluster by  Fritz Zwicky in 1933. Smith is a less familiar name in twentieth-century cosmology for two reasons: First, his work was largely in the area we would now call instrumental physics, rather than observational astronomy, and, second, he died tragically early, of cancer.

Smith received his bachelor’s degree from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1921 and his Ph.D. in 1924, also from Caltech, for work with  John Andersonon electrically exploded wires as a method of obtaining laboratory spectra at high excitation and ionization energies. He remained in the physics laboratory of Mount Wilson Observatory the rest of his life, apart from a year (1924/1925) at the...

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Selected References

  1. Anderson, J. A. (1938). “Sinclair Smith.” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 50: 232–233.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Trimble, Virginia (1990). “Sinclair Smith (1899–1938).” In Modern Cosmology in Retrospect, edited by B. Bertotti et al., pp. 411–413. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaIrvine School of Physical SciencesIrvineUSA