"To Contribute to Mankind"

Dr. Beatrice Hill Tinsley invented the galaxies that I crash. Before I was born, she laid the foundations for the work that changed our view of galaxies as mere bundles of stars into the current cosmological view of protogalaxies that formed, that evolve, that continuously have stars dying and stars being born. She codified how galaxies evolve.

Biographer C. Catley writes "Her 1966 PhD thesis on the evolution of the stars and gas in galaxies is acknowledged as one of the most outstanding scientific papers of the century. She is credited with opening up a whole new branch of science with her work on the origins of galaxies, and the origins of the universe itself."

Her insight was that galaxies change on short timescales, relative to the age of the universe. As an astrophysicists, she did not suggest this as a philosophical possibility, but instead provided a quantifiable, measurable way to measuring and binning galaxies by age and mass to calculate their star formation rates and feedback (supernovas leading to more star formation).

NASA image of collisional galaxy AM06447-741
AM0644-741, result of two galaxies colliding, subject of Antunes' Ph.D.
You can read a short article summarizing her research and how it defined cosmology, and the ridiculous hassles she faced as a woman scientist. As C. Catley describes in In Search of Beatrice Hill Tinsley:
James Gunn, later of Princeton, said of Beatrice that she would have been outstandingly successful in any specialisation she settled on, but that it would have been a real tragedy if she had specialised. "Breadth, not depth, was her forte. She could spot connections that nobody else could see, seeing that this tied up with that, and so on." To all of this she added her own ideas, transfixing her peers and later her students by new insights and new horizons that constantly changed as more was discovered.
You may wonder what this has to do with me launching the Project Calliope ionospheric satellite. My Ph.D. was in the field Dr. Tinsley created-- galaxy evolution and galaxy collisions. Academically, she's part of my 'scientific pedigree'. I like to think I benefited from her intellectual approach as well.

We get our inspiration from many sources, some overt, some more subtle. Would I have gotten my Ph.D. if my advisor, John Wallin, hadn't been so... Wallinesque? And is his academic approach itself a function of how he was taught, by Curtis Struck? And did Struck not learn from Beatrice Tinsley? And was she not merely an independent, self-driven scientist, but a kick-ass cosmologist crasher of the first degree?

Dr. Tinsley wanted 'to be a good person and contribute to mankind.' She was a synthesist who published brilliant work and advanced our understanding of the universe.

Chasing a Scientific Pedigree

A Scientific Pedigree or Academic Genealogy traces doctoral students through the chain of Ph.D. advisors. To trace this back four generations is easy. Dr. Tinsley was a bit of a mystery, and past her, I had to search through university records. Once things fell into pure math, it was very easy because there's a huge pedigree site for math people.

The hardest to research was Dr. Tinsley herself. There were no clear documents on who her advisor specifically was, and I ended up directly emailing her biographer. From this I confirmed the tidbit that yes, Sachs was her nominal advisor-- but she was so self-directed he really just signed the paperwork!

  1. Alex "Sandy Antunes", PhD 2005, George Mason University, computational astrophysics

  2. John F. Wallin, PhD 1989, Iowa State Univ of Science and Technology, astrophysics

  3. Curtis Struck(-Marcell), PhD 1981, Yale University, astrophysics

  4. Beatrice Muriel Hill Tinsley, PhD 1967, University of Texas at Austin, astrophysics (1941-1981), cosmology. Invented galaxy evolution binning by age and mass to calculate SF and feedback.

  5. Rainer Kurt Sachs, PhD, 1958, Syracuse U, mathematical physics (1932-), Sachs-Wolfe effect on CXBG due to primordial density fluctuations

  6. Peter Gabriel Bergmann, PhD, 1936, Deutsche Technische Hochschule in Prague (1915-2002), relativity

  7. Philipp Frank, PhD 1907, University of Vienna (1884-1966), physics, friend of Einstein

  8. Ludwig Boltzmann, PhD 1866, University of Vienna, (1844-1906, suicided) physics, Boltzmann law, Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, etc.

  9. Josef Stefan, PhD 1858, University of Vienna, mathematics and physics (1835-1893), Stefan-Boltzmann law, temperature of the surface of the Sun

Special thanks to these sources: Christine Cole Catley, the Mathematics Geneology Project, the  Astrophysical Data Service, and Mathematicians biographies.

My writeup today was inspired by the Finding Ada challenge, celebrating Ada Lovelace Day to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.


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