Walter Sydney Adams

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Walter Sydney Adams (December 20 1876May 11 1956) was an American astronomer.

He was born in Antioch, Syria to missionary parents, and was brought to the US in 1885. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1898, then continued his education in Germany. After returning to the US, he began a career in Astronomy that culminated when he became director of the Mount Wilson Observatory.

His primary interest was the study of stellar spectra. He worked on solar spectroscopy and co-discovered a relationship between the relative intensities of certain spectral lines and the absolute magnitude of a star. He was able to demonstrate that spectra could be used to determine whether a star was a giant or a dwarf. In 1915 he began a study of the companion of Sirius and found that despite a size only slightly larger than the Earth, the surface of the star was brighter per unit area than the Sun and it was about as massive. Such a star later came to be known as a white dwarf.

He won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1917 and the Henry Draper Medal in 1918. He won the Bruce Medal in 1928. He won the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship in 1947.

Walter Sydney Adams died in Pasadena, California.

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