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Schmidt, Maarten (Astronomer)



  • Existence: 1929 - 2222


Background: Caltech Professor of Astronomy, 1959-1996; Director, Hale Observatories, 1978-1980; Chairman, Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy, 1976-1978; Executive Officer for Astronomy, 1972-1975.


Description: Maarten Schmidt was born in Groningen, Holland, in 1929. He developed an interest in astronomy at an early age. After undergraduate study at the University of Groningen (to 1949), he took up advanced study of astronomy at the University of Leiden with Jan Oort and became Oort's assistant at the Leiden Observatory. After a stint in Kenya working with G. van Henk (1950-1951), he returned to Holland and completed his PhD in 1956 with work on spiral galaxies. After receiving a Carnegie Fellowship in 1956, he made his first trip to the US to work at the Mt. Wilson Observatory in Pasadena. Schmidt accepted a position at Caltech (after refusing a first offer) in 1959. At Caltech his scientific work covered the following areas: star formation in galaxies; size and mass of our own galaxy; and identification of radio sources with optical objects. This latter work led to a major discovery, the recognition of mysterious, bright radio "stars," finally called quasars (1963). Schmidt continued to work on quasars through the 1990s, in addition to tackling problems in X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy. He has held major administrative positions at Caltech; he has also served a term as president of the American Astronomical Association (1984-1986) and was Caltech's liaison to AURA (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy) from 1983 to 1995.


Collection Notes: Oral history, 1992. This 46-page oral history is focused on Schmidt's involvement with the Keck Telescope program.

Oral history, 1996. A 61-page interview with Shirley K. Cohen covers biographical and scientific subjects. Extended discussion of discovery of quasars; also breakup of Caltech-Carnegie Institution collaboration in astronomy.

Oral history, 2000. A 27-page oral history with Shirley K. Cohen on the controversy within LIGO between R. Vogt and R. Drever (1992-1994). Includes appendix of relevant documents.

Photo of Maarten Schmidt with an instrument (PhotoNet).

Found in 16 Collections and/or Records:

Interview with Maarten Schmidt on the W. M. Keck Observatory

 Digital Record
Identifier: 2018-09-10-000006

Interview with Marteen Schmidt on the W. M. Keck Observatory, 1992-01-21 - 1992-02-05, 1994

Scope and Contents An interview in two sessions, January and February 1992, with Maarten Schmidt, Francis L. Moseley Professor of Astronomy in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy (PMA).He recalls being brought into plans for a 10-meter telescope in 1978-1979 as director of the Hale Observatories, by Robert Sinsheimer, chancellor of UC Santa Cruz. Appoints Allan Sandage and Keith Matthews to UC committees on the project. His membership on UC Graybeards Committee that chose Jerry...
Dates: 1992-01-21 - 1992-02-05; Publication: 1994

Maarten Schmidt LIGO Papers [Partially CLOSED]

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 2000-00234

Maarten Schmidt Oral History Interview with Shirley Cohen [sound recording], 1996-04-11 - 1996-05-15

Scope and Contents An interview in three sessions in April and May of 1996 with Maarten Schmidt, Francis L. Moseley Professor of Astronomy, emeritus, in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy. He recalls growing up in Groningen, Holland, during German occupation in World War II; his early education and friendship with Jan Borgman, with whom he built a telescope; photographing the solar eclipse of July 9, 1945. Matriculation at Groningen University in 1946. At an astronomy conference in 1949, Jan...
Dates: 1996-04-11 - 1996-05-15


 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1986-00559


 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1998-00265

Additional filters:

Archival Object 8
Unprocessed Material 7
Digital Record 1
Astronomy 10
Keck 2
Oral History 2
Physics 2