Saturday, November 29, 2008

Deceased--Edwin E. Salpeter

Edwin E. Salpeter
December 3rd, 1924 to November 26th, 2008

"Edwin E. Salpeter, Leader in Astrophysics Study, Dies at 83"


The Associated Press

November 29th, 2008

ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) — Edwin E. Salpeter, an astrophysicist widely known for his studies of chain reactions in stars and as a developer of the "Salpeter-Bethe equation" describing how helium changes to carbon, died Tuesday at his home here. He was 83.

His death was announced by Cornell University, where he was an emeritus professor of physical sciences.

Along with Hans Bethe, a theoretical physicist at Cornell who won a Nobel Prize in physics in 1967, Dr. Salpeter introduced an equation in 1951 showing how helium nuclei fuse to form carbon in the interiors of ancient stars. Until then, the origin of elements beyond helium in the periodic table was unexplained.

From that work, Dr. Salpeter determined the formation rates of stars of different masses. The process remains the basis of today’s studies into the rates of stellar births and deaths.

In 1964, while working independently, Dr. Salpeter and a Soviet physicist, Yakov Zeldovich, were the first to propose that a stream of gas falling toward a black hole could in principle be heated to very high temperatures, where it would produce detectable X-rays. Thirty years later, data from the Hubble telescope confirmed his idea.

"It's good to finally win the bet," Dr. Salpeter said at the time.

In 1997, Dr. Salpeter and Sir Fred Hoyle, the British scientist who coined the term "Big Bang," shared the $500,000 Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for "their pioneering contributions involving the study of nuclear reactions in stars and stars' development."

The prize is given annually to honor accomplishments in scientific fields not covered by the Nobel Prizes in science, whose winners are also chosen by the academy.

Born in Austria, Dr. Salpeter moved to Cornell in 1949 as a postdoctoral student and spent his career there. Although he retired in 1997, he kept publishing papers and moved into new arenas of research, including explorations of neuromuscular disorders and the epidemiology of tuberculosis.

A self-deprecating man, Dr. Salpeter described his mind as "quick but sloppy," saying he preferred the challenge of tackling a contentious new problem to undertaking mathematical calculations.

Late in his career, research by Dr. Salpeter and his wife, Miriam Salpeter, an expert in cell biology and a neurobiologist at Cornell, contributed to the understanding and treatment of neuromuscular disorders like myasthenia gravis. She died in 2000 at the age of 71.

Dr. Salpeter remarried and is survived by his wife, Lhamo; two daughters, Judy and Shelley; and four grandchildren.

Edwin Ernest Salpeter

Book review-- "Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe"

Credit where credit is due--"Big Bang"

Fred Hoyle--cosmologist

Philip Morrison...physicist

Rudi Peieris...physicist's physicist

Sir Hermann Bondi--steady state universe

The astronomy/cosmology debates of the 1930's & 1940's

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This article on E. E. Salpeter focuses on his contribution to the idea of giant gasbag lifeforms that might exist in a Jovian atmosphere, which he wrote about in a paper with Carl Sagan: