Harlow Shapley, American Astronomer

Harlow Shapley, American Astronomer

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Credit: NYPL/SCIENCE SOURCE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: PROPERTY RELEASED. Harlow Shapley (1885-1972), American astronomer. Shapley is notable for his groundbreaking 1918 work using Cepheid variables to estimate the size of the Milky Way Galaxy and the sun's position within it, as well as in 1953 proposing the 'Liquid Water Belt' theory, now known as the concept of a habitable zone. His wife, Martha Betz assisted her husband in astronomical research both at Mount Wilson and at Harvard Observatory. She produced numerous articles on eclipsing stars and other astronomical objects. He is also known to have incorrectly opposed Edwin Hubble's observations that there are additional galaxies in the universe other than the Milky Way. Shapley fiercely critiqued Hubble and regarded his work as junk science. Hubble's findings went on to fundamentally reshape the scientific view of the universe. In the 1940s, Shapley helped found government funded scientific associations, including the National Science Foundation. He is also responsible for the addition of the "S" in UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

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