Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

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

Klumpke Roberts, Dorothea

Reference work entry

BornSan Francisco, California, USA, 9 August 1861

DiedSan Francisco, California, USA, 5 October 1942

Dorothea Klumpke Roberts headed the Paris Observatory’s Bureau of Measurements for the Carte du Ciel project, and also published the photographic Isaac Roberts Atlas of 52 Regions.

Dorothea Klumpke and her four sisters (all of whom became distinguished in their own fields) were educated in California and then in Paris. She received a BS in mathematics and mathematical astronomy from the University of Paris in 1886, and in 1893 became the first woman to receive the degree Doctor of Science there. Her dissertation was a mathematical study of the rings of Saturn.

In 1887, Klumpke began work at the Paris Observatory, measuring star positions on photographic plates. When the Paris Observatory was assigned a large section of the sky to be photographed for the Carte du Ciel project, she was appointed to head the Bureau of Measurements, and from 1891 to 1901 she carried out this task so well that she was awarded the first Prix des Dames of the Société Astronomique de France (1889) and Officier of the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1893.

In 1901 Klumpke married   Isaac Roberts , an amateur astronomer and pioneer in astronomical photography. They settled in England, and she assisted him in his work. After Roberts’ death in 1904, she returned to France and lived with her mother and sister, continuing Roberts’ work and publishing results from time to time. In 1929 she published the Isaac Roberts Atlas of 52 Regions, a Guide to William Herschel’s Fields of Nebulosity, followed by a 1932 supplement; these contained fine enlargements of 50 photographs from Roberts’ collection. This earned her the Hélène-Paul Helbronner Prize from the French Academy of Sciences in 1932. In 1934 she was elected Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in recognition of 48 years of service to French astronomy.

About this time, Klumpke Roberts retired from active work, and returned to San Francisco, where she continued her interest in astronomy and young astronomers. She endowed several prizes through the Paris Observatory and the University of California, and gave money to the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for the Klumpke-Roberts Lecture Fund, named in honor of her parents and her husband. This has subsequently become the Klumpke-Roberts Award for those who have excelled in the popularization of astronomy.

Selected References

  1. Aitken, Robert G. (1942). “Dorothea Klumpke Roberts – An Appreciation.” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 54: 217–222.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bracher, Katherine (1981). “Dorothea Klumpke Roberts: A Forgotten Astronomer.” Mercury 10, no. 5: 139–140.ADSGoogle Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Whitman CollegeWalla WallaUSA