AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 1. Walter Baade: Father of the Two Stellar Populations and Pioneer Supernova Researcher
Invited, Monday, June 4, 2001, 8:30-9:20am, C101-104

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[1.01] Walter Baade: Father of the Two Stellar Populations and Pioneer Supernova Researcher

D. E. Osterbrock (UCO/Lick Obs./UCSC)

Walter Baade was the great observational astronomer of the middle part of the past century. He lived and worked in Pasadena, where he ``discovered" the two stellar populations and did outstanding pioneer research on supernovae at Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories from 1931 until 1959, when he returned to his native Germany, and died the following year.

Baade was born in a little town in northwest Germany, and educated at Goettingen University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1919, just after the end of World War I. He got a research position at Hamburg Observatory, and quickly jumped into globular cluster and galactic structure work with its 40-in reflector, then the largest telescope in Europe.

Baade recognized very early the great importance of the extremely rare ``highly luminous novae" which Heber D. Curtis and Knut Lundmark isolated in 1919-21. In 1929 Baade called these ``Hauptnovae" the key to measuring distances of faint galaxies. We call them supernovae today, a term he and Fritz Zwicky began using in 1932.

Similarly Baade's first inkling that there was a spherically symmetric distribution of stars in our Galaxy, which he named Population II in his two great 1944 papers, came when he began picking up field RR Lyrae variables in 1926.

Baade's research on the two stellar populations and supernovae was extremely important in opening up the whole fields of stellar and galactic evolution. His invited lectures at meetings and symposia, and his courses as a visiting professor inspired a whole generation of research astrophysicists. Baade's attractive personality made it possible for him to make his great discoveries in a land in which he was officially an enemy alien during World War II.

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