Heber Doust Curtis

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Heber Doust Curtis
File:H. D. Curtis Lick Observatory.jpg
Born (1872-06-27)June 27, 1872
Muskegon, Michigan
Died January 9, 1942(1942-01-09) (aged 69)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Nationality United States
Fields astronomy
Alma mater University of Michigan

Heber Doust Curtis (June 27, 1872 – January 9, 1942) was an American astronomer. He participated in 11 expeditions for the study of solar eclipses.[1]


He was born on June 27, 1872, the elder son of Orson Blair Curtis and Sarah Eliza Doust.[2]

He studied at the University of Michigan and at the University of Virginia, where he got a degree in astronomy.

From 1902 to 1920 Curtis worked at Lick Observatory, continuing the survey of nebulae initiated by Keeler. In 1912 he was elected president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

In 1918 he observed Messier 87 and was the first to notice the polar jet which he described as a "curious straight ray ... apparently connected with the nucleus by a thin line of matter."[3][4]

In 1920 he was appointed director of the Allegheny Observatory. In the same year he participated in the Great Debate with Harlow Shapley on the nature of nebulae and galaxies, and the size of the universe. Curtis advocated the now-accepted view that other galaxies apart from the Milky Way existed.

Curtis also invented a type of film plate comparator in about 1925, allowing 2 plates, each 8×10 in, to be compared using a set of prisms and placing the plates on stacked and aligned stages rather than next to one another as was the norm, this allowed the body of the device to measure just 60×51 cm. This device is packed in crates and resided at UCO Lick Observatory as of Aug 2011. His article describing the device appears in the Publications of the Allegheny Observatory, vol. VIII, no. 2.

In 1930 Curtis was appointed director of the University of Michigan observatories, but the shortage of funds following the Great Depression prevented the construction of a large reflector he had designed for the university at Ann Arbor. He contributed to develop the McMath–Hulbert private observatory at Lake Angelus.

He died on January 9, 1942.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Dr. Heber Curtis, An Astronomer, 69. Chairman of Department at the University of Michigan Is Dead in Ann Arbor. Saw 11 Solar Eclipses. Had Served as Head of Lick Observatory in Chile. Won Many Honors for Work". New York Times. January 10, 1942. Retrieved 2014-01-12. Dr. Heber D. Curtis, chairman of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Michigan, died at his home here last night at the age of 69. He won national ...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Hockey, Thomas (2009). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0. Retrieved August 22, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Heber Doust Curtis (1918). "Descriptions of 762 Nebulae and Clusters Photographed with the Crossley Reflector". Publications of the Lick Observatory. University of California Press. 13: 31. Retrieved 2010-04-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "A Cosmic Blowtorch in Hubble's Viewfinder". New York Times. July 11, 2000. Retrieved 2014-01-12. Ever since Heber Curtis, a University of California astronomer, spied a ray of light shooting out of M87's core in 1918, astronomers have puzzled over the nature and origin of this jet and dozens of others discovered over the years shooting from the cores of active galaxies and quasars.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Mt. Wilson Observer Reveals Findings on Groups but Calls Data Tentative". New York Times. June 24, 1950. Retrieved 2014-01-12. The symposium is part of the program preceding the dedication tomorrow of the Heber Doust Curtis Memorial Telescope, a $200000 instrument installed at a ...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Minor planets discovered: 1
(23400) A913 CF February 11, 1913