William Hammond Wright

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For other people named William Wright, see William Wright (disambiguation).

William Hammond Wright (November 4, 1871 – May 16, 1959) was an American astronomer and the director of the Lick Observatory from 1935 until 1942.

Wright was born in San Francisco. After graduating in 1893 from the University of California, he became Assistant Astronomer at Lick Observatory. From 1903 to 1906 he worked on establishing the "Southern station" of the observatory at Cerro San Cristobal near Santiago de Chile. It only took him 6 months to start with observations from this new site, and he recorded a large series of radial velocity measurements of stars in the southern sky. In 1908 he was promoted to Astronomer. From 1918 to 1919 he was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground working for the ordnance section of the United States Army. He then returned to the Lick Observatory and worked there until his retirement.

He is most famous for his work on radial velocity of stars in our galaxy, and his work with a spectrograph he designed himself. He obtained spectra of novas and nebulae. In 1924 he made photographic observations of Mars in multiple wave lengths. From these pictures he concluded that its atmosphere was about 60 miles (100 km) deep.

In 1928 Wright received the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.,[1] and in 1938 the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.[2] A crater on Mars is named after him, and the crater Wright on the Moon is co-named in his honour.


  1. ^ "Henry Draper Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "Winners of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 19 February 2011.