Edwin Ernest Salpeter
Edwin Ernest Salpeter ForMemRS (3 December 1924, Vienna – 26 November 2008, Ithaca, New York) was an Austrian-Australian-American astrophysicist. Born to a Jewish family, he emigrated from Austria to Australia while in his teens to escape the Nazis. He attended Sydney Boys High School (1939–40) and Sydney University, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in 1944 and his master's degree in 1945. In the same year he was awarded an overseas scholarship and attended Birmingham University, England, where he earned his doctorate in 1948 under the supervision of Sir Rudolf Peierls. He spent the remainder of his career at Cornell University, where he was most recently the James Gilbert White Distinguished Professor of the Physical Sciences, Emeritus. Salpeter died of leukemia at his home in Ithaca on November 26, 2008.
In 1950 he married Miriam (Mika) Mark (1929-2000), a neurobiologist born in Riga, Latvia; she was chairwoman of the department of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell from 1982 to 1988. The Society for Neuroscience created the Mika Salpeter award in her memory; it "recognizes an individual with outstanding career achievements in neuroscience who has also significantly promoted the professional advancement of women in neuroscience." The Salpeters had two daughters, Judy Salpeter and Dr. Shelley Salpeter.
In 1951 Salpeter suggested that stars could burn helium-4 into carbon-12 with the Triple-alpha process not directly, but through an intermediate metastable state of beryllium-8, which helped to explain the carbon production in stars. He later derived the initial mass function for the formation rates of stars of different mass in the Galaxy.
Salpeter wrote with Hans Bethe two articles in 1951 which introduced the equation bearing their names, the Bethe-Salpeter equation which describes the interactions between a pair of fundamental particles under a quantum field theory.
In 1964 Salpeter and independently Yakov B. Zel'dovich were the first to suggest that accretion discs around massive black holes are responsible for the huge amounts of energy radiated by quasars (which are the brightest active galactic nuclei). This is currently the most accepted explanation for the physical origin of active galactic nuclei and the associated extragalactic relativistic jets.
- Carnegie Institution for Science Award for Research in Astrophysics (1959)
- Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1973)
- Henry Norris Russell Lectureship (1974)
- J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize of the University of Miami (1974)
- Karl Schwarzschild Medal (1985)
- Bruce Medal (1987)
- Crafoord Prize (with Fred Hoyle) (1997)
- Terzian, Y. (2010). "Edwin Ernest Salpeter. 3 December 1924 -- 26 November 2008". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 56: 391. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2010.0005.
- "Edwin E. Salpeter, Leader in Astrophysics Study, Dies at 83". NY Times. 2006.
- "Edwin E. Salpeter Dies at 83". Ithaca Journal. 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
- Wolfgang Saxon, "Miriam M. Salpeter, 71, Expert On Neuromuscular Disorders," New York Times, October 28, 2000.
- Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Suzy Collin, Quasars and Galactic Nuclei, a Half-Century Agitated Story, 2006, preprint on arXiv.org
- Peterson, B. M. An Introduction to Active Galactic Nuclei. 1.ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997
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- Bruce Medal page
- bio page
- Oral History interview transcript with Edwin Ernest Salpeter 30 March 1978, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives