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

Curtis, Heber Doust

  • Rudi Paul Lindner
  • Jordan D. MarchéII
Reference work entry

BornMuskegon, Michigan, USA, 27 June 1872

DiedAnn Arbor, Michigan, USA, 9 January 1942

A man of many talents – classicist, linguist, and astronomer – Heber Curtis displayed a keen eye for recognizing the most pressing astronomical problems of his era. After being surpassed on several fronts, Curtis shifted from notable observer to capable administrator, where he continued to guide the research of others. His name appears most often now in connection with the 1920 Curtis-Shapley debate on the distance scale of the universe.

Curtis, elder son of Orson Blair Curtis and Sarah Eliza Doust, moved with his family to Detroit when he was 7. Curtis’s father, a Civil War veteran, had been wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg but survived the amputation of his left arm. Orson Curtis nonetheless completed his education at the University of Michigan and later secured a position with the United States Customs Service in Detroit. Curtis’s mother, a native of Maidstone, England, was educated at...

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Selected References

  1. Aitken, Robert G. (1943). “Biographical Memoir of Heber Doust Curtis.” Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences 22: 275−294.Google Scholar
  2. Crowe, Michael J. (1994). Modern Theories of the Universe from Herschel to Hubble. New York: Dover, esp. pp. 233–243, 269–327.Google Scholar
  3. Hoskin, Michael A. (1971). “Curtis, Heber Doust.” In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. Vol. 3, pp. 508–509. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Google Scholar
  4. — (1976). “The ‘Great Debate’: What Really Happened.” Journal for the History of Astronomy 7: 169–182.Google Scholar
  5. Osterbrock, Donald E. (2001). “Astronomer for All Seasons: Heber D. Curtis.” Mercury 30, no. 3: 24–31.Google Scholar
  6. Smith, Robert W. (1982). The Expanding Universe: AstronomysGreat Debate’, 1900–1931. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, esp. pp. 28–31, 42–45, 77–90.Google Scholar
  7. Trimble, Virginia (1995). “The 1920 Shapley-Curtis Discussion: Background, Issues, and Aftermath.” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 107: 1133–1144.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.University of WisconsinMadisonUSA