On the Composition of the Sun's Atmosphere. The Astrophysical Journal, Volume LXX, 70, July 1929
Chicago: University of Chicago, 1929. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION OF A WORK IN WHICH THE AMERICAN ASTRONOMER HENRY NORRIS RUSSELL CONCLUDES THAT HYDROGEN & HELIUM ARE THE LARGEST CONSTITUENTS OF THE SUN.
Russell’s conclusions aren’t disputed, but they were shared and not wholly original to him. Russell was assigned to review the doctoral thesis of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, the first woman ever granted a PhD in astronomy. He was, at the time, director of the Princeton Observatory and a strong proponent of the idea that the Earth and the Sun had the same composition. He returned Payne-Gaposchkin’s dissertation with honest compliments on her approach and a lone complaint: “It is clearly impossible that hydrogen should be a million times more abundant than the metals.
“Without Russell’s blessing, the thesis would not be accepted and so Payne-Gaposchkin did what she felt she had to do. In the final version of her thesis, she disowned that part of her work by writing “The enormous abundance derived for [hydrogen and helium] is almost certainly not real” (Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Physics World, March 2022).
In 1929, though, Russell derived the same results by different means. He then published his own derivation of the stellar abundance, citing Payne-Gaposchkin’s work and noting that his results for all the elements including the great abundance of hydrogen agreed remarkably well with hers. He wrote: "[t]he most important previous determination of the abundance of the elements by astrophysical means is that by Miss Payne" (ibid). Without saying so directly, Russell’s paper affirmed that Payne-Gaposchkin’s analysis was correct, and that she was the first to discover that the Sun is mostly made of hydrogen.” Nevertheless, Russell is generally credited for the conclusion and the weight of Russell's support convinced other scientists who, like him, had assumed that the composition of the sun is very similar to that of the earth. Item #1637
CONDITION & DETAILS: Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Complete. Ex-libris marking on the front flyleaf and pastedown. NO spine markings whatsoever. 4to (9.75 x 6.75 inches). , vi, , 4. Twelve plates and in-text illustrations throughout. Tightly bound in red buckram. Gilt-lettered at the spine. Bright and clean throughout. Very good +.