Sir William Huggins

Sir William Huggins

Huggins, Sir William, 1824-1910, English astronomer. Using a spectroscope, he began to study the chemical constitution of stars from the observatory attached to his home in Tulse Hill, London. He proved that while some nebulae are clusters of stars, others are uniformly gaseous. Huggins pioneered in spectroscopic photography and played a part in developing the combined use of the telescope, spectroscope, and photographic negative. He adapted the gelatin dry-plate negative for making astronomical photographs; this made possible exposures of any desired length. In 1866, Huggins made the first spectroscopic observations of a nova. He applied the Doppler effect to the measurement of stellar motions in the line of sight. Huggins was president (1900-1906) of the Royal Society. With his wife, Margaret Lindsay Murray, Lady Huggins, he prepared an Atlas of Representative Stellar Spectra (1899).

Sir William Huggins, OM, FRS (February 7 1824May 12 1910) was an English astronomer best known for his pioneering work in astronomical spectroscopy.

Life and work

William Huggins was born at Cornhill, Middlesex in 1824. He married Margaret Lindsay, who was a capable astronomer in her own right. She encouraged her husband's photography and helped to systemise their research.

Huggins built a private observatory at 90 Upper Tulse Hill, South London from where he and his wife carried out extensive observations of the spectral emission lines and absorption lines of various celestial objects. He was the first to distinguish between nebulas and galaxies by showing that some (like the Orion Nebula) had pure emission spectra characteristic of gas, while others like the Andromeda Galaxy had spectra characteristic of stars. Huggins was assisted in the analysis of spectra by his neighbour, the chemist William Allen Miller.

Huggins was president of the Royal Society between 1900 and 1905.

He died in 1910 and was buried at Golders Green Cemetery.

Honours and awards


Named after him


  • Spectrum analysis in its application to the heavenly bodies. Manchester, 1870 (Science lectures for the people; series 2, no. 3)
  • (with Lady Huggins): An Atlas of Representative Stellar Spectra from lambda4870 to lambda3300, together with a discussion of the evolution order of the stars, and the interpretation of their spectra; preceded by a short history of the observatory. London, 1899 (Publications of Sir William Huggins's Observatory; v. 1)
  • The Royal Society, or, Science in the state and in the schools. London, 1906.
  • The Scientific Papers of Sir William Huggins; edited by Sir William and Lady Huggins. London, 1909 (Publications of Sir William Huggins's Observatory; v. 2)

See also

External links

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