Fred Lawrence Whipple, US astronomer

Fred Lawrence Whipple, US astronomer

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Credit: EMILIO SEGRE VISUAL ARCHIVES/AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: Fred Lawrence Whipple (1906-2004), US astronomer. Born in Red Oak, Iowa, an early bout of polio ended his ambition to become a professional tennis player. Majoring first in mathematics, Whipple went on to receive a doctorate in astronomy in 1931 from the University of California, Berkeley. He discovered or co-discovered 7 different comets and is best known for proposing the dirty snowball hypothesis of comet composition in an influential paper published in Astrophysical Journal from 1950 to 1955. In 1955 he became director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), remaining in the post until 1973.

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