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Fred Lawrence Whipple

Fred Lawrence Whipple

Male 1906 - 2004  (97 years)

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  • Name Fred Lawrence Whipple 
    Born 5 Nov 1906  Red Oak, Montgomery, Iowa Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 30 Aug 2004  Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I32739  Whipple Descendants
    Last Modified 2 Sep 2012 

    Father Harry Lawrence Whipple,   b. 26 Sep 1882, Union Twp, Harrison, Missouri Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 28 Nov 1963, Long Beach, Los Angeles, California Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 81 years) 
    Mother Celestia "Lesta" MacFarland,   b. 11 Sep 1884, Garfield, Montgomery, Iowa Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 2 Jan 1972, Long Beach, Los Angeles, California Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 87 years) 
    Married 1906  , , Iowa Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F9255  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Dorothy Cornell Woods,   b. Abt 1907, , , California Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Poss 1938  (Age ~ 31 years) 
    Married 1928 
    Divorced Yes, date unknown 
    Children 
     1. Earle Raymond Whipple
    Last Modified 13 Sep 2020 
    Family ID F16170  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Babette Frances "Babbie" Samelson,   b. 22 Jul 1918, Memphis, Shelby, Tennessee Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 Dec 2009, Belmont, Middlesex, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 91 years) 
    Married 20 Aug 1946  Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
    +1. Dorothy Sandra "Sandy" Whipple
     2. Laura Whipple
    Last Modified 13 Sep 2020 
    Family ID F16171  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 5 Nov 1906 - Red Oak, Montgomery, Iowa Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 20 Aug 1946 - Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 30 Aug 2004 - Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Notes 
    • !SOURCE: "Whipple, Fred Lawrence," The International Who's Who, 37th ed., 1973-74 (London: Europa Publications, 1973), p. 1808.

      !OCCUPATION: Astronomer; Chair, Dept. of Astronomy, Harvard University, 1949-1956; Director, Smithsonian Institution Astrophysical Observatory, 1955-; many honors and positions; author.

      !SOURCE: 1920 Census, Deer Creek, Mills County, Iowa. Fred L. Whipple is the son, age 13, born in Iowa. Others in the household are father Harry L. Whipple and mother Celestia M. Whipple, as well as Francis M. [illegible], a laborer.

      !OBITUARY: Appeared at Boston.com:
      Fred L. Whipple, pioneer in comet research, dead at 97

      By Associated Press, 8/31/2004 14:51

      CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) Fred L. Whipple, a pioneer in astronomy who proposed the ''dirty snowball'' theory for the substance of comets, has died. He was 97.

      Whipple died Monday at a Cambridge hospital, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said Tuesday.

      Whipple proposed the theory in 1950, saying that comets consisted of ice with some rock mixed in, rather than sand held together by gravity, as was widely believed. Whipple's theory was an attempt to explain why some comets seemed to arrive at destinations earlier or later than predicted.

      Whipple believed that as a comet approached the sun, its light vaporized ice in the comet's nucleus. The jets of particles that resulted acted like a rocket engine that either slowed or accelerated the comet.

      He also theorized that the glowing comet tails contained particles that originated from frozen reservoirs in comet nuclei.

      Whipple's theories were proven correct in 1986 by close-up photographs of Haley's comet by the European Space

      Agency's Giotto spacecraft.

      Charles Alcock, director of the Center for Astrophysics, said Whipple had ''revolutionized the study of comets.''

      ''Fred Whipple was a truly extraordinary person among extraordinary people. He was gifted with great scientific imagination, superb analytical skills, and excellent management acumen,'' Irwin Shapiro, a former director of the center, said in a statement.

      Whipple was born in Red Oak, Iowa, in 1906. He received his bachelor's degree in mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles, but didn't turn to astronomy until a bout with polio ended his dreams of being a tennis champion.

      He completed his doctorate in astronomy at the UC-Berkeley, in 1931 and accepted a position at Harvard that year.

      During World War II, Whipple invented a device used by Allied planes over Germany to confuse enemy radar. The device cut aluminum foil into thousands of fragments, giving a false impression of a much larger number of planes attacking.

      In 1946, in anticipation of the future of space flight, Whipple invented a thin outer skin of metal to protect spacecrafts. Meteors disintegrated when they hit the shield, known as a meteor bumper or Whipple shield, leaving only vapor to hit the spacecraft. The technology is still in use today.

      He was also ahead of the curve in 1957, when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite. At the time, Whipple was setting up a network of cameras to track it and one station was already operational.

      President Kennedy honored Whipple with an Award for Distinguished Public Service in 1963 for the project.

      Whipple was director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge from 1955 to 1973, when it merged with the Harvard Observatory and was renamed the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

      Whipple retired from Harvard in 1977, although he continued to bicycle to the center six days a week until he was 90. The license plate on his car was ''COMETS.''



      !SOURCE: Janice Morgan Seligman, So Proudly We Hail: Ancestors and Descendants of Harold and Elsie Cole (Whipple) Morgan (Boston: Newbury Street Press, c2011), pp. 299-301. Gives birth at Wright Pottawattamie, Iowa. (Previously entered as Red Oak, Montgomery, Iowa.)


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