Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 1271-1272


Lampland, Carl Otto


Born near Hayfield, Minnesota, USA, 29 December 1873

Died Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, 14 December 1951

Carl Lampland was involved with both of the solar system projects for which the Lowell Observatory became famous: observations of Mars and the search for “Planet X.” He also accumulated a massive collection of fine photographs of nebulae, including galaxies and gaseous nebulae, and made accurate estimates of the temperatures and temperature balances for various objects in the solar system.

Lampland was the third of 11 children born to Norwegian parents. He received a B.S. degree in 1899 from Valparaiso Normal School at Valparaiso, Indiana. Lampland then graduated with a B.A. degree in astronomy from Indiana University in 1902. He accepted a position as astronomer at the invitation of Percival Lowell from the Lowell Observatory in 1902. Lampland also received an M.A. degree in 1906 and an honorary L.L.D. in 1930 from Indiana University.

In the early years at Flagstaff, Lampland was closely associated with Lowell in observing the planets, particularly Mars. He designed the planetary cameras used on the 24-in. Clark refractor, for which he received the medal of the Royal Photographical Society of Great Britain. In 1905, Lampland initiated the first photographic search for the trans-Neptunian planet postulated by Lowell. After Lowell added a 42-in. reflector to the observatory’s telescopes in 1909, Lampland served as the principal observer with that instrument for the next 42 years. With it, he made over 10,000 photographs of nebulae, star clusters, variable stars, novae, and planets. He studied these photographs and published interpretations of the changes they revealed. For example, Lampland conducted an extensive campaign to record changes in NGC 2261, after changes in that nebula were noted by John Mellish and documented by Edwin Hubble . Lampland was responsible for the recognition of the second truly variable nebular phenomenon, the expansion of the Crab Nebula supernova remnant, showing that it must have formed about the time of the 1054 supernova. Unfortunately, Lampland was extremely reluctant to publish the results of his photographic work, so much so that in 1948 the International Astronomical Union passed a resolution pointing out the desirability of having the photographs published. Sadly, he died within a few years after the resolution added importance to his work; thousands of his excellent photographs remain unpublished.

In collaboration with William Coblentz of the National Bureau of Standards, Lampland measured the temperatures of the planets with thermocouples that he constructed. Based on those measurements, and in collaboration with Donald Menzel , they concluded that the energy reflected, and reradiated, from the planets was very nearly that which each planet received from the Sun.

Lampland was a member of several professional societies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He married Verna B. Darby, a classmate from Indiana University, in 1911. She frequently worked with him as an assistant on the 42-in. telescope.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Show all