Cosmic Tremors: The Quest for Colliding Black Holes

The 17th Annual Paul D. Bartlett, Sr. Lecture presented in association with the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Kansas City, the Princeton Alumni Association of Greater Kansas City, and the Yale Club of Kansas City. Yale astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan will trace the history of the idea of black holes and present our evolving understanding of how they form and grow.

Francesco Bianchini

Francesco Bianchini, an Italian astronomer, was born Dec. 13, 1662.  Bianchini found favor in the Roman Curia of three successive popes.  He first made his mark with a meridian line that he installed in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome, a feat we will...

Maria Cunitz

Maria Cunitz, a Silesian astronomer, died Aug. 22 (or Aug. 24), 1664, at the age of 60, or perhaps 54 (her birth year is debated; her birth date is unknown). Silesia was then comprised of what is now southwestern Poland, small parts of eastern Germany and some bits of the northern Czech Republic. Maria never had any formal education, but she had educated parents, and she mastered…

Bernhard Walther

Bernhard Walther, a German merchant and astronomer, died June 19, 1504; his birth date is unknown. Walther, a resident of Nuremberg, was the intellectual and instrumental heir of Johannes Regiomontanus, the Königsberg astronomer who moved to Nuremberg in 1471 and set up the first scientific printing press, intending to publish not only Ptolemy’s Almagest, but also his own Epitome of the Almagest. His ambitions were nipped when…

Caroline Herschel

Caroline Herschel, a German-born English astronomer, was born Mar. 16, 1750. She was the younger sister of William Herschel, a musician who moved from Hannover to England in 1766, and when he invited her to join his musical ensemble in 1772 as a singer, she accepted. Unfortunately for Caroline’s singing career, William got distracted by a book on telescope-building about the time she arrived, and he spent every waking moment, when he was not writing music and rehearsing the choir at the Octagon Chapel in Bath, learning how to grind metallic mirrors for telescopes, and Caroline was more or less left to fend for herself (although she did get to sing one of the leads for a performance of Handel’s Messiah in 1778). Fortunately for William, and perhaps for Caroline, his optical exercises paid off, in that he managed to construct the finest reflecting telescope in the world by 1779, and used it to discover the 7th planet, Uranus, in 1781. He was awarded a pension from the King (he had named his new planet George), gave up his musical career, and moved to an estate near Windsor, where he built bigger and better telescopes and used them to probe deeper and deeper into space. Caroline became his indispensable assistant…