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The College and the Eclipse (of 1869)

Charles Young '53.jpgThe recent PBS Nova episode about this week’s eclipse — Eclipse Over America — contained a segment about Hanover-born, Dartmouth Professor of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Astronomy Charles Young, Class of 1853 (1834-1908). His creative spectroscopy work during the 1869 eclipse revealed what many people thought was a new element, as the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) notes:

In 1869, working in collaboration with William Harkness, he discovered a green line in the coronal spectrum, without any known counterpart in laboratory spectra. This led the two researchers to propose the existence of a new chemical element hitherto unknown on Earth, which they named “Coronium”. It took over 60 years for solar physicists to finally realize that the (in)famous green line belonged in fact to a highly ionized state of Iron, and indicative of the million-degree high temperature of the solar corona.

The section on Professor Young begins at 36:20:

Young died in Hanover on January 3, 1908.

Addendum: Young’s biography on the NCAR website notes:

Both his father and grandfather had been Professors of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Dartmouth College, where Young entered in 1849 at age fourteen and graduated from in 1853 at the head of his class.

An eighteen-year-old senior and valedictorian? When is the last time that happened?

Addendum: Charles Young’s papers are stored in Rauner.


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