The Franklin Institute Logo
Case Files logo

Harlow Shapley: Measurement of Galaxies of Vast Distances, 1945


Shapley was awarded the Thaw fellowship of Princeton University and began studying as a doctoral candidate under Henry Norris Russell, who was the head of the astronomy department there. Russell's work involved using stellar spectra to determine the properties of stars and the orbits of spectroscopic binary, or double, stars. By 1913, Shapley had earned his Ph.D. His dissertation was entitled, "The Orbits of Eighty-Seven Eclipsing Binaries - a Summary." Shapley's thesis was a valuable contribution to the field of astronomy; it dealt with methods for determining the physical properties of eclipsing binary stars. Shapley became interested in determining the distances to these stars.