Young, Charles Augustus

views updated May 23 2018


(b. Hanover, New Hampshire, 15 December 1834; d. Hanover, 3 January 1908)


The family into which Young was born had strong ties to Hanover, New Hampshire, the site of Dartmouth College. His mother was Eliza M. Adams, whose father, Ebenezer Adams, occupied the chair of mathematics and philosophy (later natural philosophy and astronomy) at Dartmouth from 1810 to 1833 and was succeeded by Ira Young, Charles’s father, who held the post until 1858. Charles began his higher education at Dartmouth at the age of fourteen; four years later he graduated with distinction, first in a class of fifty. Upon graduation he took a post teaching classics at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. He taught there full-time for two years and part-time for another year while he was enrolled in the Andover Theological Seminary.

Fortunately for astronomy, in 1856 Young changed his plans to become a missionary and instead took the post of professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio. He began his duties there in January 1857 and the following August married Augusta S. Mixer, by whom he had three children.

In 1862 Young took four months from his teaching at Hudson in order to captain Company B. 85th Regiment, Ohio Volunteers. The duties of the command involved only the guarding of prisoners, yet he returned to civilian life with his health impaired.

Although offered a professorship of mathematics at Dartmouth, Young remained in Hudson until 1866, when he accepted the Appleton professorship at Dartmouth-the chair that had been held by his grandfather and father.

The promise of modern equipment and less classroom time induced Young to move to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1877. He held that post until retiring to Hanover in 1905.

Young started serious research soon after taking his post at Dartmouth. The spectroscope was just beginning to become a powerful tool in astronomy, and the Appleton fund was sufficient to provide him with the equipment he requested. In 1869 he began publishing a series of “spectroscopic notes” in the Journal of the Franklin Institute. The nine papers dealt with spectra of the solar chromosphere and sunspots, design and use of equipment, and observations of prominences, including possibly the first photograph ever taken of one. During 1871-1872 he compiled a catalog of bright spectral lines in the sun; and in 1876, using the Doppler principle, he measured the rotational velocity of the sun. (Although Vogel had made a similar measurement in 1871, Young’s results were more accurate.)

His interest in solar research naturally led Young to make many eclipse expeditions. While on the U. S. Naval Observatory expedition to Burlington, lowa, 7 August 1869, he devised a method for using the spectroscope to observe first contact; he later suggested the application of this method for the transit of Venus in 1874. And during an expedition to Jerez, Spain, 22 December 1870, he found that the dark lines of the sun’s spectrum are momentarily reversed just at totality; hence, he is credited with the important discovery of the “reversing layer.” He led other expeditions to Colorado (July 1878), Russia (August 1887), and North Carolina (May 1900).

Although Young had a conspicuous career as a researcher, he was equally talented as a teacher. Besides teaching at Western Reserve, Dartmouth, and Princeton, he lectured at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now College) from 1868 to 1903, at Bradford Academy from 1872 to 1898; and at Williams College from 1873 to 1875; in addition, he gave numerous talks to the public.

In addition to teaching, Young wrote some of the most famous and widely read textbooks on astronomy of his era. These books aided the education of several generations of scientists and affected the writing of astronomy texts for the next halfcentury. General Astronomy (1888), which was widely adopted sold, over thirty thousand copies by 1910 an amazing accomplishment at that time. His Elements of Astronomy, a more basic text, appeared in 1890. A version for younger student, Lessons in Astronomy (1891), had sold sixty thousand copies by 1910. Finally, in 1902 he issued an intermediate-level text that became perhaps his most famous book his Manual of Astronomy. (Incidentally, the renowned text by H. N. Russell, R. S. Dugan, and J. Q. Stewart [1926] was a revision of the Manual) More than any other individual, Young profoundly influenced the nature of American texts in the field.

Young received many honorary degrees and awards; he was also a member and officer of leading astronomical and scientific societies in the United States and abroad.


I. Original Works. Young’s books include The Sun, in International Science Series (New York, 1881; rev, ed., 1895); A Text book of General Atronomy for Colleges and Scientific Schools (Boston, 1888; rev. ed., 1898); Elements of Astronomy (Boston, 1890); Lessons in Astromomy(Boston,1891); and Manual of Astronomy (Boston, 1902). Some of his most important papers are “American Astronomy – Its History, Present State, Needs and Prospects,” in Proceedings of the American Association for Advancement of Science (1876), 35–48; “Pending Problems in Astronomy,” ibid., (1884), 1–27; “Ten Years’ Progress in Astronomy, 1876-1886,” in sidereal Messenger,6 (1887), 4–41; “Spectroscopic Notes,” in Journal of the Franklin Institute58 (1869), 141–142. 287–288, 416–424; 60 (1870), 64–65, 232a–232b, 331–340, 349–351; 62 (1871), 348–360, 430; “On the Solar Corona” in American Journal of Science, 3rd ser., 1 (1871), 311–320; and “Observations on the Displacement of Lines in the Solar Spectrum Caused by the Sun’s Rotation,” ibid.,12 (1876), 321–328.

II. Secondary Literature. Obituaries and biographical sketches of Young are the following, listed chronologically: New York Times (5 Jan. 1908), pt. I, 11; Hector MacPherson, Jr., in Observatory,31 (1908), 122–125; John M. Poor. in Popular Astronomy,16 (1908), 218–230: Sidney D. Townley, in Publications of the Astonomical Society of the Pacific,20 (1908), 46–47; 323–338, with portait; Henry Norris Russell, in Monthly National of the Royal Astronomical Society,69 (1909), 257–260; and Edwin B.Frost, in Biographical Memoirs . National Academy of Sciences, 7 (1910), 89–114, with portrait and complete bibliography. Further background information can be found in Agnes M. Clerke. A Popular Histroy of Astronomy (London, 1893); A Pannekoek, A History of Astronomy (London, 1961); Otto Struve and Velta Zebergs, Astronomy of the Twentieth Century (New York, 1962); and Reginald L. Waterfield A Hundred Years of Astronomy (New York, 1938).

Richard Berendzen

Richard Hart

Young, Charles

views updated Jun 11 2018

Young, Charles (1864–1919), U.S. Army colonel, military attache.The son of slaves, Young was born in Kentucky and educated in Ohio. He became the ninth African American appointed to West Point, and only the third to graduate (1889). Young's military career was consistently marked by his achievement in mixing combat, command, and intelligence assignments with teaching, administrative, and diplomatic duties at home and abroad. He served for nearly three decades (1889–1917), experiencing combat in the Spanish‐American War, the Philippine War, Haiti, Liberia, and Mexico. On the eve of World War I, he was sixth in line for promotion to brigadier general.

Although genuine physical aliments (high blood pressure and kidney inflammation) constituted the official reasons for his removal from active duty, Colonel Young was also the victim of the 1890s and early twentieth‐century white redefinitions of manhood, gender, and race. The African American successes as combatants during the Spanish‐American War helped spark debate within the military on the suitability of using blacks for combat. The cultural attempt by African Americans to define their independence as citizens came into play in the enforced retirement of Colonel Young as the nation prepared for entry into World War I.
[See also African Americans in the Military.]


Gerald W. Patton , War and Race: The Black Officer in the American Military, 1915–1941, 1981.
Robert Ewell Greene , Colonel Charles Young, Soldier and Diplomat, 1985.

Gregory L. Mixon

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Charles Augustus Young

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