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Gerard Kuiper

1905 - 1973

Gerard Kuiper, 1905 - 1973, Dutch Astronomer

Gerard Kuiper, 1905 - 1973, was a Dutch (American from 1937) astronomer who pioneered airborne infrared observations, and was a pioneer in planetary science.

  • Nationality
  • Dutch

  • Subject
  • Astronomy

  • Fields
  • Planetary science, selenography

  • Distinctions
  • Also known as the 'Father of Modern Planetary Science'.

    The Kuiper Belt, craters on the Moon, Mars, and Mercury, and the minor planet 1776 Kuiper, are named in his honour.

    Prix Jules Janssen, Astronomical Society of France.

    Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society, 1959.

    Kepler Gold Medal, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Franklin Institute, 1971.

  • Posts
  • University of Chicago, lecturer and astronomer at the Yerkes Observatory.

    Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, 1960.

  • Theories
  • Kuiper numbers for binary stars.

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Yerkes-McDonald asteroid survey (1950-1952).

    Discovery of Miranda, moon of Uranus, and Nereid, moon of Neptune.

    Discovered CO2 in atmosphere of Mars.

    Methane in atmosphere of Titan, moon of Saturn, in 1944.

    Infrared observations from the Convair 990 aircraft, 1960s.

    Kuiper identified moon landing sites for NASA, 1960s.

Gerard Kuiper, 1905 - 1973, Dutch Astronomer
Gerard Kuiper, 1905 - 1973, Dutch Astronomer

Kuiper's alma mater was Leiden University (of the Leiden Jar fame), where he was associated with Ejnar Hertzsprung, Jan Oort and Paul Ehrenfest, amongst others. He obtained a BSc. in Astronomy, and a Ph.D. in 1933 on binary stars, after which he went to the Harvard College Observatory in 1935, and then the Chicago University Yerkes Observatory in 1937.

Albert Einstein at the Yerkes Observatory, c. 1922
Albert Einstein at the Yerkes Observatory, c. 1922

Kuiper's impact on astronomy, particularly studies of the solar system, is reflected in the frequent use of his name for craters, an observatory, a planetoid, and the Kuiper Belt, although he did not discover it himself.

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