His interest in astronomy started in 1914. He soon acquired a 4-inch (100 mm) telescope and soon upgraded to a 6-inch (150 mm). From graduation in 1918 until 1929, he worked as a demonstrator at the École Polytechnique. He studied engineering, physics, and chemistry at the University of Paris, and from 1920 until his death he worked for the Meudon Observatory. In 1930 he earned the title of Joint Astronomer of the Observatory. After gaining the title, he earned a reputation of being an expert of polarized and monochromatic light. Throughout the 1930s, he labored to perfect the coronagraph, which he invented to observe the corona without having to wait for a solar eclipse. In 1938, he showed a movie of the corona in action to the International Astronomical Union. In 1939, he was elected to the French Academy of Sciences. He became Chief Astronomer at the Meudon Observatory in 1943 and received the Bruce Medal in 1947. He suffered a heart attack while returning from an eclipse expedition in Sudan and died on 2 April 1952, at the age of 55.
Observations and Achievements on Pic du Midi
- Lunar soil behaves like volcanic dust.
- Mars has sandstorms.
- Improved his coronagraph.
- Made motion pictures of solar prominences and the corona.
- Found spectral lines in the corona.
Awards and honors
- Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1939)
- Howard N. Potts Medal (1942)
- Bruce Medal (1947)
- Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences (1951)
Named for him
- "Winners of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
- "Past Winners of the Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal". Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
- "Henry Draper Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 24 February 2011.