Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 30: Joel Stebbins

Joel Stebbins
July 30, 1878 – March 16, 1966

Joel Stebbins was an American astronomer who pioneered photoelectric photometry in astronomy.

He earned his Ph.D at the University of California. He was director of University of Illinois observatory from 1903 to 1922 and the Washburn Observatory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1922 to 1948. After 1948, Stebbins continued his research at Lick Observatory until his final retirement in 1958.

Stebbins brought photoelectric photometry from its infancy in the early 1900s to a mature technique by the 1950s, when it succeeded photography as the primary method of photometry. Stebbins used the new technique to investigate eclipsing binaries, the reddening of starlight by interstellar dust, colors of galaxies, and variable stars.

Stebbins received the following awards:
  • Rumford Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1913)
  • Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences (1915)
  • Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1941)
  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1950)
  • Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society (1956)

The Lunar crater Stebbins and the asteroid 2300 Stebbins are named in his honor.


  1. Hey this is pretty cool. My name is also Joel Stebbins and I was born on July 30th.

  2. Joel,

    That IS cool. You (almost) have an asteroid and a lunar crater named after you!