Edwin E. Salpeter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Edwin Ernest Salpeter)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Edwin Salpeter
Born(1924-12-03)3 December 1924
Vienna, Austria
Died26 November 2008(2008-11-26) (aged 83)
Ithaca, New York, United States
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham (PhD), University of Sydney (BSc)
Known forSalpeter initial mass function, Bethe–Salpeter equation
Spouse(s)Miriam Mark (1950-2000); Antonia Shouse (-2008)
Children(with Miriam Mark:) Judy Salpeter, Shelley Salpeter
Scientific career
InstitutionsCornell University
Thesis (1948)
Doctoral advisorRudolf Peierls

Edwin Ernest Salpeter (3 December 1924 – 26 November 2008,[1][2]) was an Austrian–Australian–American astrophysicist.[3]


Born in Vienna to a Jewish family, Salpeter emigrated from Austria to Australia while in his teens to escape the Nazis. He attended Sydney Boys High School (1939–40)[4] 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 the University of Birmingham, 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 the James Gilbert White Distinguished Professor of the Physical Sciences. Salpeter died of leukemia at his home in Ithaca, New York on 26 November 2008.[citation needed]

Scientific contributions[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

In 1955 he found the Salpeter function or the initial mass function (IMF).[5] It shows that the number of stars in each mass range decreases rapidly with increasing mass.

In 1964 Salpeter and independently Yakov B. Zel'dovich were the first[6] 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.[7]


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.[8] 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."[9] The Salpeters had two daughters, Judy Salpeter and Dr. Shelley Salpeter. After Miriam's death, Edwin married Antonia Shouse.[10]



  1. ^ "Edwin E. Salpeter, Leader in Astrophysics Study, Dies at 83". NY Times. 2008.
  2. ^ "Edwin E. Salpeter Dies at 83". Ithaca Journal. 28 November 2008. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
  3. ^ Trimble, Virginia; Terzian, Yervant (2009). "Obituary: Edwin E. Salpeter (1924-2008)". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 41 (4): 1208. Bibcode:2009BAAS...41.1208T. Archived from the original on 8 October 2017. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  4. ^ http://www.shsobu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/professors.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  5. ^ Salpeter, Edwin (1955). "The luminosity function and stellar evolution". Astrophysical Journal. 121: 161. Bibcode:1955ApJ...121..161S. doi:10.1086/145971.
  6. ^ Suzy Collin, Quasars and Galactic Nuclei, a Half-Century Agitated Story, 2006, preprint on arXiv.org
  7. ^ Peterson, B. M. An Introduction to Active Galactic Nuclei. 1.ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997
  8. ^ Wolfgang Saxon, "Miriam M. Salpeter, 71, Expert On Neuromuscular Disorders", New York Times, 28 October 2000.
  9. ^ Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award. Archived 2 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Edwin E. Salpeter, Leader in Astrophysics Study, Dies at 83", The Associated Press, 28 November 2008.
  11. ^ "Edwin Ernest Salpeter". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  12. ^ "E. E. Salpeter". www.nasonline.org. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  13. ^ Walter, Claire (1982). Winners, the blue ribbon encyclopedia of awards. Facts on File Inc. p. 438. ISBN 9780871963864.
  14. ^ "Edwin Salpeter wins Oppenheimer Prize". Physics Today. 27 (3): 83–85. March 1974. doi:10.1063/1.3128516.
  15. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 19 July 2022.

External links[edit]