Donald Osterbrock (1925-2007)

Donald Osterbrock commemorated for important contributions to science and lifelong service to astronomy.Provided by the University of California, Santa Cruz
By | Published: January 15, 2007
January 15, 2007
Donald E. Osterbrock, astrophysicist, astronomer, and historian, died on January 11, 2007. He was 82. At the time of his sudden death from a heart attack, Osterbrock was a professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he continued to conduct research and mentor graduate students since his 1992 retirement.
Donald Osterbrock
Donald Osterbrock (1925–2007)
UC-Santa Cruz
In 1949, after completing his bachelor’s degree, Osterbrock went to Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin to work toward his Ph.D. under the supervision of Indian astronomer S. Chandrasekhar, who later won the Nobel Prize in physics. While in his 20s, Osterbrock contributed to one of the most important astronomical discoveries of the 20th century: the discovery of the spiral-arm structure of the Milky Way. His later research interests included understanding the nature of ionized gas around hot stars and studying the processes at work in the centers of galaxies. While working as a theorist, Osterbrock computed one of the first successful models of red dwarf stars. He was the director of the Lick Observatory from 1973 to 1981 and worked at other famous observatories, including the Mt. Wilson Observatory.

Later in life, Osterbrock pursued his interest in the history of astronomy. After retirement, he published historical works about notable figures in the history of astronomy, including James Keeler, George Ellery Hale, George Willis Ritchey, and Walter Baade. He also published institutional histories of the Lick and Yerkes observatories for their centennial celebrations in 1988 and 1997. The many awards and honors Osterbrock received during his long career included the Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society, and the Gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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