Charles Dillon Perrine
Charles Dillon Perrine
|Died||June 21, 1951 (aged 83)|
|Alma mater||Santa Clara College (honorary doctorate) (today, Santa Clara University)|
|Known for||Himalia |
6th and 7th Moons of Jupiter
|Awards||Lalande Prize |
Astronomical Society of Mexico
Donohoe Comet Medals (x5) from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition Gold Medal
|Fields||Astronomy, Astrophysics, Astrophotography|
|Institutions||Lick Observatory, Argentine National Observatory (today, Observatorio Astronomico Cordoba)|
|Influences||William Wallace Campbell|
Charles Dillon Perrine (July 28, 1867 – June 21, 1951) was an American astronomer living in Argentina. In 1897 he was awarded the Lalande Prize and gold medal by the Paris Academy of Sciences given each year ″to the person who makes the most outstanding observation or writes the most useful paper to further the progress of Astronomy, in France or elsewhere.″.[circular reference]. He served as President of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1902 and was elected an Associate of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1904.
Born in Steubenville, Ohio, the son of Peter and Elizabeth (McCauley) Perrine, he was a descendant of Daniel Perrin, "The Huguenot", and Maria Thorel, Charles' colonial ancestors. Following high school graduation in 1884, he moved to Alameda, California in about 1886 and worked as a bookkeeper at Armour & Co. in San Francisco.
Interested in photography and astronomy since an early age and responding to a general invitation to amateurs from the newly established Lick Observatory (1888) Perrine participated in the observation of the total solar eclipse of Jan. 1, 1889 in Northern California. The report and photographs which he submitted to the Observatory caught the attention of the Director, E. S. Holden, who hired him as Secretary in 1893. Holden agreed to Perrine's request to use available telescopes and other instruments in his free time. Charles offered to assist the astronomers. As his skills and reputation increased he was promoted to Secretary and Assistant Astronomer (1895), Assistant Astronomer (1902), and Astronomer (1905).
From 1895-1902 Perrine discovered eight unexpected and four periodic comets including the co-discovery of the lost periodic comet 18D/Perrine-Mrkos in 1896 (see list below). Antonín Mrkos later named the asteroid 6779 Perrine after him. The lunar crater Perrine is also named after him.
He discovered the sixth and seventh moons of Jupiter, today known as Himalia (on December 3, 1904) and Elara (on Feb 21, 1905). At the time they were simply designated "Jupiter VI" and "Jupiter VII" and were given their present names in 1975.
Perrine accompanied four solar eclipse expions of the Lick Observatory: 1900 (Georgia, USA), 1901 (Sumatra), 1905 (Spain), and 1908 (Flint Island), and was in charge of the one sent to Sumatra.[circular reference] Also in 1901, he and George Ritchey observed the apparent superluminal motion in the nebulosity surrounding Nova Persei 1901.
In 1909 he resigned from Lick Observatory to accept the position of Director of the Argentine National Observatory (today, Observatorio Astronómico de Córdoba) at Cordoba, Argentina from 1909 until 1936.
The Argentine National Observatory led by Perrine made the first attempt to test Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity by observing the deflection of star light near the Sun at a total solar eclipse. Perrine wrote, "The Cordoba Observatory made the first definite attempt to secure observations at an eclipse (that of 1912) for the relativity problem and that was done at the instigation of Dr. Freundlich." Einstein, in 1905, had proposed his Theory of Special Relativity which predicted that gravity bent light. In 1911 Einstein wrote, "It would be urgently wished that astronomers take up the question here raised (gravitational light deflection near the Sun),...". Dr. Erwin Finlay-Freundlich, a German astronomer and mathematician, took up Einstein's challenge and contacted Perrine in 1911 and 1912 to ask if he would undertake a test of light deflection near the Sun. Perrine agreed to add the test to his planned expion to Cristina, Brazil to observe the total solar eclipse of Oct. 10, 1912. William Wallace Campbell, the Director of the Lick Observatory, also encouraged Perrine to pursue the test and loaned him Lick's eclipse camera lenses. The Argentine National Observatory built the telescopes and other equipment and established the observation site at Cristina, Brazil. Unfortunately, steady rain made visibility and therefore the test impossible. As Perrine put it, "We suffered a total eclipse instead of observing one". While evidence of light deflection was elusive in 1912, the expion produced valuable instruments, knowledge, and experience which put the Observatory in a better position to test light deflection at the next total solar eclipse in 1914. Perrine soon began to plan for this next opportunity in the Russian Empire. In 1914, three observatories would organize expions and include light deflection in their programs; the Argentine National Observatory (Perrine), the Lick Observatory (Campbell), and the Berlin-Babelsberg Observatory (Freundlich).
Perrine pioneered the study of astrophysics in Argentina and promoted the construction of the 60-inch/1.54 m reflecting telescope at Bosque Alegre which was completed in 1942 after his retirement in 1936. It would remain the largest telescope in South America until 1981 when Brazil built a 63-inch reflector.[circular reference] After retirement he lived in Cordoba then in Villa General Mitre (originally and again Villa del Totoral) where he died. He is buried in the Cemetery del Salvador (Cementerio del Salvador) formerly called the Cementerio de Disidentes (cemetery of dissidents/non-catholics), in the city of Córdoba.
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