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Rutherfurd, Lewis Morris

RUTHERFURD, LEWIS MORRIS

(b. New York. N.Y., 25 November 1816; d. Tranquility, New Jersey, 30 May 1892)

astrophysics.

As early as his student days at Williams College. Rutherfurd displayed an interest in science, assisting in the chemistry course. Initially he was destined for the law and studied with William H. Seward. He came from a prominent family and his independent means, subsequently augmented by marriage into the wealthy Stuyvesant family, must have made him seem like a few other members of what was an emerging American particiate, a dilettantish amateur. Samuel Ward and J. P. Morgan the elder, for example, both gave up youthful interests in mathematics for more lucrative careers. The Rutherfurd who was on the yacht America during its challenge of the British must have appeared to superficial observers an unpromising candidate for honors in astrophysics. But he had already published his first scientific paper.

Freed from the need to practice law by his marriage, Rutherfurd traveled abroad for seven years, partly because of his wife’s health. In Florence he associated with Amici, who was known for his work in both microscopy and optical astronomy. When Rutherfurd returned to the United States, he had an observatory constructed in 1856 on the Stuyvesant family estate, in what is now New York City’s Lower East Side. Here he worked on astronomical photography and spectroscopy. Rutherfurd sometimes made his own instruments, work at which he was very skilled: more frequently the instruments were constructed by others according to his specifications.

In 1858 Rutherfurd started working on astronomical photography, using an 11.5-inch achromatic refracting telescope made by Henry Fitz. Although placing the plates at the actinic focus produced fine lunar photographs as well as images of Jupiter, Saturn, the sun, and stars of the fifth magnitude. Rutherfurd tried various expedients to obtain better photographs before he completely omitted the visual element from the telescope. Starting in December 1864 he employed a new 11.5-inch objective lens useful solely for photography. The resulting pictures of the moon were widely admired. In 1865 Rutherfurd began to photograph star clusters in order to map the heavens. His friend Benjamin Apthorp Gould collaborated in reducing the data for the Pleiades and the Praesepe. Rutherfurd also devised a micrometer for measuring the stellar photographs. When doubts were expressed concerning the stability of the photographic plates, particularly in connection with the proposed observations of the transits of Venus, Rutherfurd published results of tests of albuminized glass plates with wet collodion film (1872). After 1868 Rutherfurd used a thirteen-inch refractor with an exterior photographic corrective lens.

In 1861 O.W. Gibbs called Rutherfurd’s attention to the spectroscopic work of Bunsen and Kirchhoff. By the next year Rutherfurd had made spectroscopic studies of the sun, moon, Jupiter, Mars, and sixteen fixed stars. From the last he independently gave a stellar spectra classification quite similar to Secchi’s. Rutherfurd also used the spectroscope for color correction of telescope lenses.

His first spectroscopic observations used a cylindrical lens between a prism and the objective of the 11.25-inch Fitz telescope. In the winter of 1862–1863, Rutherfurd developed a spectroscope using glass prisms filled with carbon disulfide and ingenious devices for maintaining equal density of the disulfide and for adjusting the prisms. At the January 1864 meeting of the National Academy of Sciences. Rutherfurd displayed a never-published photograph of the solar spectrum 15 centimeters wide and 78.7 centimeters between lines. H and F (according to Gould), with three times the lines given by Bunsen and Kirchhoff.

Encouraged by Gibbs and Ogden Rood of Columbia University, who were also working in this area, Rutherfurd turned in 1863 to diffraction gratings. An early ruling engine proved inadequate; in 1867 Rutherfurd devised another, in which a screw, rather than levers, powered by a turbine run by tap water, moved the plate. The gratings he produced were superior to the best then made (by Nobert), and by 1877 they were available with up to 17,296 lines to the inch. The earliest gratings were on glass; later ones had rulings on speculum metal. Rutherfurd freely and widely distributed his gratings, which were unsurpassed until the work of Rowland.

When his health began to fail in 1877, Rutherfurd started to dismantle his observatory, making his last observations in 1878. The growth of the city, in any event, made precision work at that location extremely difficult. A trustee of Columbia University, in 1881 Rutherfurd helped the university found its department of geodesy and practical astronomy; and in 1883 he donated the equipment of his observatory. In 1890 he transferred twenty volumes of plate measures and a large collection of his photographic plates that provided intellectual employment for the university observatory, named in his honor, for many years.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. Rutherfurd’s writings include “Observations During the Lunar Eclipse, 12 September 1848”, in American Journal of Science, n.s. 6 (148),435–437: “Astronomical Observations With the Spectroscope”, ibid., n.s. 35 (1863), 71–77; “Letter on a Compansion to Sirius, Stellar Spectra, and the Spectroscope”, ibid., 407–409; “Observations on Stellar Spectra”, ibid., n.s.36 (1863), 154–157; “On the Construction of the Spectroscope”, ibid., n.s.39 (1865), 129–132;” Astronomical Photography”, ibid., 304–309; “On the Stability of the Collodion Film”, ibid., 3rd ser.,6 (1872), 430–433; “A Glass Circle for the Measurement of Angles”, ibid., 3rd 12 (1876), 112–113, See also the correspondence of O. W. Gibbs at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, and the Ogden Rood correspondence at the Columbia University Library, New York City.

II. Secondary Literature. The recent and enlightening article by Deborah Jean Warner, “Lewis M. Rutherfurd: Pioneer Astronomical Photographer and Spectroscopist”, in Technology and Culture, 12 (1971), 180–216, is the best introduction to his work. Still useful are Benjamin Apthorp Gould, “Memoir of Lewis Morris Rutherfurd”, in Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences, 3 (1895), 417–441; and John K. Rees, “Lewis Morris Rutherfurd”, in Astronomy and Astro-Physics, 11 )1892), 689–697. The results of the work of the Columbia University’, Rutherfurd Observatory on the materials presented by Rutherfurd are in John K. Rees, Harold Jacoby, Herman S. Davis, and Frank Schlesinger, Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, a Brief Account of His Life and Work ... . 2 vols. (New York, 1898–1919).

Nathan Reingold

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Rutherfurd, Lewis Morris

Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (rŭŧħ´ərfərd), 1816–92, American physicist, b. New York City, grad. Williams, 1834. From 1837 to 1849 he practiced law. Rutherfurd studied and experimented in celestial photography, especially in spectral analysis, in which he was a pioneer, and he invented several instruments for his work, including a micrometer for measuring positions on photographs, an apparatus for ruling diffraction gratings, and a telescope specially fitted for astronomical photography. He gave his instruments and collections of photographs to Columbia Univ., of which he was a trustee (1858–84).

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affiance

af·fi·ance / əˈfīəns/ • v. (be affianced) poetic/lit. be engaged to marry: Ann Elliott was affianced to Col. Lewis Morris.

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"affiance." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/affiance