Skip to main content

Honorary Member: Dr. Martin Schwarzschild

Anonymous's picture


Martin Schwarzschild (May 31, 1912 – April 10, 1997) was a German-born American astronomer. He was the son of famed astrophysicist Karl Schwarzschild and the nephew of the Swiss astrophysicist Robert Emden.
Schwarzschild was born in Potsdam into a distinguished German Jewish academic family. In line with a request in his father's will, his family moved to Göttingen in 1916. Schwarzschild studied at the University of Göttingen and took his doctoral examination in December 1936. He left Germany in 1936 for Norway and then the United States.
Schwarzschild served in the US army intelligence. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star for his wartime service. After returning to the US, he married fellow astronomer Barbara Cherry. In 1947, Martin Schwarzschild joined his life-long friend, Lyman Spitzer at Princeton University. Spitzer died 10 days before Schwarzschild.
Schwarzschild's work in the fields of stellar structure and stellar evolution led to improved understanding of pulsating stars, differential solar rotation, post-main sequence evolutionary tracks on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (including how stars become red giants), hydrogen shell sources, the helium flash, and the ages of star clusters. Much of this was done with R. Härm. Schwarzschild’s 1958 book Structure and Evolution of the Stars taught a generation of astrophysicists how to apply electronic computers to the computation of stellar models.
In the 1950s and ’60s he headed the Stratoscope projects, which took instrumented balloons to unprecedented heights. The first Stratoscope produced high resolution images of solar granules and sunspots, confirming the existence of convection in the solar atmosphere, and the second obtained infrared spectra of planets, red giant stars, and the nuclei of galaxies. In his later years he made significant contributions toward understanding the dynamics of elliptical galaxies. Schwarzschild was renowned as a teacher and held major leadership positions in several scientific societies.
In the 1980s, Schwarzshild applied his numerical skills to building models for triaxial galaxies.
Dr. Schwarzschild was the Eugene Higgins Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at Princeton University, where he spent most of his professional life.
Dr. Schwarzschild was named an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada on 1963-01-04.
The asteroid (4463) Marschwarzschild is named in his honour.
Title/Given Name: 
Dr. Martin
Reference 1: