- Gerard Kuiper
name = PAGENAME
caption = PAGENAME c. 1963.
December 7 1905
December 23 1973
residence = |citizenship = American
nationality = Dutch
field = astronomer
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Gerard Peter Kuiper (IPA| [ˈkaɪpɚ] ), born Gerrit Pieter Kuiper (IPA| [kœypər] ) (
December 7 1905, Harenkarspel( Tuitjenhorn), Netherlands– December 23 1973, Mexico City) was a Dutch American astronomer who became a naturalizedcitizen of the United States and lived most of his life in his new homeland.
Kuiper, the son of a tailor in the village of
Tuitjenhornin North Holland, had an early interest in astronomy. He had extraordinarily sharp eyesight, allowing him to see magnitude 7.5 stars with the naked eye, about four times fainter than visible to normal eyes. He went to study at Leiden University, where at the time a very large number of astronomers had congegrated. He befriended fellow students Bart Bokand Pieter Oosterhoffand was taught by Ejnar Hertzsprung, Antonie Pannekoek, Willem de Sitter, Jan Woltjer, Jan Oortand the physicist Paul Ehrenfest. Kuiper finished his doctoral thesis on binary stars with Hertzsprung in 1933, after which he immediately traveled to Californiato become a fellow under Robert Grant Aitkenat the Lick Observatory. In 1935 he left to work at the Harvard College Observatorywhere he met Sarah Parker Fuller, whom he married on June 20, 1936. Although he had planned to move to Javato work at the Bosscha Observatory, he took a position at the Yerkes Observatoryof the University of Chicagoand became an American citizen in 1937.
Kuiper discovered two moons of
planets in the solar system, namely Uranus's moon Miranda and Neptune's moon Nereid. In addition, he discovered carbon dioxidein the atmosphere of Marsand the existence of a methane-laced atmosphere above Saturn's moon Titan in 1944. Kuiper also pioneered airborne infrared observing using a Convair 990aircraft in the 1960s.
Kuiper spent most of his career at the
University of Chicago, but moved to Tucson, Arizonain 1960 to found the Lunar and Planetary Laboratoryat the University of Arizona. Kuiper was the laboratory's director until his death in 1973 while on vacation with his wife in Mexico.
In 1959, Kuiper won the
Henry Norris Russell Lectureshipof the American Astronomical Society.
In the 1960s, Kuiper helped identify
landingsites on the moonfor the Apollo program.
Kuiper belt, Asteroid 1776 Kuiper, the Kuiper crater on the Moon, craters on Mars and Mercury, and the now-decommissioned Kuiper Airborne Observatorywere named after him. In addition, he discovered several binary stars which received "Kuiper numbers" to identify them, such as KUI 79.
Kuiper Prize, named in his honor, is the most distinguished award given by the American Astronomical SocietyDivision of Planetary Sciences, an international society of professional planetary scientists. The prize recognizes outstanding contributors to planetary science, and is awarded annually to scientists whose achievements have most advanced our understanding of planetary systems. Winners of this distinguished award include Carl Sagan, James Van Allen, and Eugene Shoemaker.
* [http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/lfs/kuiper-bio.html Gerard Peter Kuiper: NASA KAO's Namesake]
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