AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXII , No. 2, Fall 2000


Friends of the Center for History of Physics

The Legacy Circle's Newest Shooting Stars

Frank Kelley Edmondson and his wife, Margaret Russell Edmondson (1914-1999) were an inseparable couple for 64 years. Together they left a lasting

Frank Edmondson

Frank Edmondson.

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impression on the field of astronomy and on Indiana University with contributions of many kinds. We are pleased to announce that they have been enrolled in the Legacy Circle of the Friends of the Center for History of Physics through a provision for a bequest to the Center.

Frank first met Margaret in 1934 when he was a staff member at the Lowell Observatory. Margaret's father, Henry Norris Russell, an eminent astronomer, had brought his family that summer to the Lowell Observatory. The pair married in the fall of 1934 and have two children, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Professor Edmondson's early primary research interest was the motions of stars in our galaxy. After World War II, he started a program of asteroid research in response to an appeal from the International Astronomical Union. His work on galactic kinematics and on asteroids resulted in fifty research papers.

Now Professor Emeritus, Dr. Edmondson served as Chair of the Department of Astronomy in Indiana University in Bloomington for 34 years. An active, innovative teacher, he was also instrumental in bringing the Goethe Link Observatory to Indiana University. His career included many appointments in national and international astronomical organizations. In 1956-1957 he was the third program director for astronomy at the National Science Foundation. He served an important role in the formation of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), the University consortium chosen to manage Kitt Peak National Observatory and other national astronomical facilities. He also helped establish the Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Cerro Tololo International Observatory in Chile. In 1964, the Republic of Chile decorated him with its Order of Merit for his role in the advancement of astronomy in that country. He was awarded the Meritorious Public Service Award of the National Science Foundation in 1983. More recently he has pursued the history of astronomy, and in 1997 Cambridge University Press published his book on AURA and Its US National Observatories. His special interest in Daniel Kirkwood, who first revealed the "Kirkwood Gaps" in the orbits of asteroids during his 30 years (1856-1880) at Indiana University, culminated in a paper published in the May-June, 2000 issue of Mercury.

Margaret Russell Edmondson as a child
Photograph of Margaret Russell Edmondson as a child, with her father, Henry Norris Russell and her family. Margaret is the child on the far left.

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Margaret Russell Edmondson was the youngest daughter of Henry Norris Russell and Lucy May (Cole) Russell. She had the closest intellectual rapport with her father of any member of the family. Although a zoologist and geneticist by training, she remained an active member of astronomy circles. Margaret completed her degrees up to an MA in genetics at Indiana University. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi there, and completed all but a dissertation for a PhD when she had to leave school to tend to her ailing mother. She was a very active part of Dr. Edmondson's professional life, and often accompanied him to meetings where she would attend alternative sessions and compare notes. She was posthumously named a Patron of the American Astronomical Society on May, 1999 in honor of her long involvement and generosity to the Society. An Asteroid, 1955 SG1 Number 4300, is named Marg Edmondson in her memory (Minor Planet Circular 34620).

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