Martin Schwarzschild
Born(1912-05-31)May 31, 1912
DiedApril 10, 1997(1997-04-10) (aged 84)
CitizenshipGerman; American
Alma materUniversity of Göttingen
Known forStellar structure and evolution
AwardsNewcomb Cleveland Prize (1957)
Karl Schwarzschild Medal (1959)
Henry Draper Medal (1960)
Bruce Medal (1965)
Brouwer Award (1992)
Balzan Prize (1994)
National Medal of Science (1997)
Foreign Member of the Royal Society[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsColumbia University[2]
Princeton University
Doctoral studentsEmilia Pisani Belserene

Martin Schwarzschild (May 31, 1912 – April 10, 1997) was a German-American astrophysicist.


Schwarzschild was born in Potsdam into a distinguished German Jewish academic family. His father was the physicist Karl Schwarzschild and his uncle the astrophysicist Robert Emden. His sister, Agathe Thornton, became a classics scholar in New Zealand.

In line with a request in his father's will, his family moved to Göttingen in 1916. Schwarzschild studied at the University of Göttingen and took his doctoral examination in December 1936. He left Germany in 1936 for Norway and then the United States. Schwarzschild served in the US army intelligence. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star for his wartime service. After returning to the US, he married fellow astronomer Barbara Cherry (1914–2008).[3][4] In 1947, Martin Schwarzschild joined his lifelong friend, Lyman Spitzer at Princeton University. Spitzer died 10 days before Schwarzschild.

Schwarzschild's work in the fields of stellar structure and stellar evolution led to improved understanding of pulsating stars, differential solar rotation, post-main sequence evolutionary tracks on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (including how stars become red giants), hydrogen shell sources, the helium flash, and the ages of star clusters. With Fred Hoyle, he computed some of the first stellar models to correctly ascend the red-giant branch by steadily burning hydrogen in a shell around the core.[5] He and Härm were the first to compute stellar models going through thermal pulses on the asymptotic giant branch[6] and later showed that these models develop convective zones between the helium- and hydrogen-burning shells,[7] which can bring nuclear ashes to the visible surface. Schwarzschild's 1958 book Structure and Evolution of the Stars[8] taught a generation of astrophysicists how to apply electronic computers to the computation of stellar models.

In the 1950s and ’60s he headed the Stratoscope projects, which took instrumented balloons to unprecedented heights. The first Stratoscope produced high resolution images of solar granules and sunspots, confirming the existence of convection in the solar atmosphere, and the second obtained infrared spectra of planets, red giant stars, and the nuclei of galaxies. In his later years he made significant contributions toward understanding the dynamics of elliptical galaxies. Schwarzschild was renowned as a teacher and held major leadership positions in several scientific societies.

In the 1980s, Schwarzschild applied his numerical skills to building models for triaxial galaxies. [9]

Schwarzschild was the Eugene Higgins Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at Princeton University, where he spent most of his professional life.[10]




Named after him

See also


  1. ^ Mestel, L. (1999). "Martin Schwarzschild. 31 May 1912 -- 10 April 1997: Elected For.Mem.R.S. 1996". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 45: 469. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1999.0031. S2CID 73338309.
  2. ^ DAVID M. HERSZENHORN (April 12, 1997). "Martin Schwarzschild, 84, Innovative Astronomer". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  3. ^ Virginia Trimble (December 1997). "Martin Schwarzschild (1912-1997)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 109. Astronomical Society of Pacific: 1289. Bibcode:1997PASP..109.1289T. doi:10.1086/134011.
  4. ^ "Obituary. Barbara Schwarzschild". Town Topics, Princeton's Community Newspaper. Vol. LXIII, no. 5. February 4, 2009.
  5. ^ Hoyle, F.; Schwarzschild, M. (1955), "On the Evolution of Type II Stars", Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, 2: 1, Bibcode:1955ApJS....2....1H, doi:10.1086/190015
  6. ^ Schwarzschild, M.; Härm, R. (1965), "Thermal Instability in Non-Degenerate Stars.", Astrophysical Journal, 142: 855, Bibcode:1965ApJ...142..855S, doi:10.1086/148358
  7. ^ Schwarzschild, M.; Härm, R. (1967), "Hydrogen Mixing by Helium-Shell Flashes", Astrophysical Journal, 150: 961, Bibcode:1967ApJ...150..961S, doi:10.1086/149396
  8. ^ Schwarzschild, M. (1958). Structure and evolution of the stars. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  9. ^ Ostriker, J. P. (1997). "Obituary: Martin Schwarzschild (1912-97)". Nature. 388 (6641): 430. Bibcode:1997Natur.388..430.. doi:10.1038/41230. S2CID 37318823.
  10. ^ DAVID M. HERSZENHORN (April 12, 1997). "Martin Schwarzschild, 84, Innovative Astronomer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
  11. ^ "Grants, Prizes and Awards". American Astronomical Society. Archived from the original on 22 December 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  12. ^ "Henry Draper Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  13. ^ "Past Winners of the Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal". Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Archived from the original on 6 October 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  14. ^ "Winners of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society". Royal Astronomical Society. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  15. ^ "Martin Schwarzschild". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2022-06-13.
  16. ^ "Martin Schwarzschild". Retrieved 2022-06-13.
  17. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2022-06-13.