Stratton, Frederick John Marrion

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(b. Birmingham, England, 16 October 1881; d. Cambridge, England, 2 September 1960)


After attending school in Birmingham, Stratton entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He was third wrangler in the mathematical tripos of 1904 and in the same year was elected a fellow of his college. His first paper,“On Planetary Inversion”(1906), was essentially a mathematical work concerned with the possibility that tidal forces can produce substantial changes in the obliquities of planetary orbits. Subsequently, however, Stratton joined the Cambridge observatory as an honorary member and worked on the proper motions of faint stars. In 1913 he was appointed assistant director of the Solar Physics Observatory at Cambridge. His astronomical work was interrupted by the First World War, in which he served with great distinction. At the end of the war Stratton relinquished his position at the observatory to become a tutor at Gonville and Caius College. This post gave him the opportunity to direct bright young men into astronomy; and eventually the offices of astronomer royal, astronomer royal for Scotland, and H.M. astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope were filled with Gonville and Caius men.

Stratton went on an expedition to Sumatra with C. R. Davidson to observe the total solar eclipse of 14 January 1926. They obtained excellent spectra of the chromosphere and conducted observations of the intensity of the Balmer lines and of the distribution of intensity of the corona. His report was published in 1929.

In 1928 Stratton succeeded Newall as professor of astrophysics and director of the Solar Physics Observatory. He also was active in the organization of science and was general secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science from 1930 to 1935 and general secretary of the International Astronomical Union from 1925 to 1935.


Stratton’s published works include“On Planetary Inversion,”in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 66 (1906), 374–402;“Proper Motions of Faint Stars in the Pleiades,”in Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society, 57 (1908), 161–184;“The Constants of the Moon’s Physical Libration,”ibid., 59 (1909), 257–290;“On Possible Phase-Relations Between the Planets and Sun-Spot Phenomena,”in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 72 (1912), 9–26;“Preliminary Note on the Later Spectrum of Nova Geminorum No. 2,”ibid., 73 (1913), 72;“On Enhanced (Spark) Lines in the Early Spectra of Nova Geminorum No. 2,”ibid., 380–382;“The Spectrum of Nova Geminorum II, 1912,” in Annals of the Solar Physics Observatory (Cambridge), 4 , pt. I (1920), 1–71; Astronomical Physics (London–New York, 1925);“Das Sterosystem, zweiter Teil,”VI, pt. 2 of Handbuch der Astrophysik (Berlin, 1928);“Report on the Total Solar Eclipse of 1926 January 14,”in Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society, 64 (1929), 105–148, written with C. R. Davidson;“The Absorption Spectrum of Nova Herculis, 1934: The First Phase,”in Annals of the Solar Physics Observatory (Cambridge), 4 , pt. 4 (1936), 131–161;“On Some Spectrograms of Nova Persei 1901,”ibid., pt. 2 (1936), 73–84;“The History of the Cambridge Observatories,”ibid., 1 (1949), 1–26:“Prof. Megh Nad Saha, F. R. S.,”in Nature, 177 (1956), 917;“Thomas Royds,”in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 116 (1956), 156–158;“John Evershed,”in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 3 (1957), 41–48; and“Henry Norris Russell,”ibid., 173–185.

Stratton was editor of Scientific Papers by Sir George Howard Darwin, 5 vols. (Cambridge, 1907–1916); and coeditor of Observatory, 36–48 (1913–1925).

Richard v. d. R. Woolley’s obituary in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society. 2 (1961), 44–49, served as the main basis of this article.

Lettie s. Multhauf

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Stratton, Frederick John Marrion

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