Last Years

  • Jan GuichelaarEmail author
Part of the Springer Biographies book series (SPRINGERBIOGS)


The British Association for the Advancement of Science organized its yearly meeting again in South Africa in 1929. De Sitter had been there at the invitation of Gill in 1905 at a previous meeting in 1905 and he did not let pass the opportunity to visit his beloved South Africa again. After all the management obligations in the Senate of the University and as president of the IAU a bit of rest was very welcome and a scientific travel was exactly what he needed. Before his departure he had corresponded with his English friends in order to travel together. Travelling with these friends afforded the opportunity to discuss scientific problems in all quiet. So De Sitter left at the end of June aboard the Nestor to Cape Town, together with amongst others Dyson, Greaves, Eddington, Knox-Shaw and Rutherford, for a voyage of nearly three months. They called themselves the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic, like the astronomers, including Kapteyn and De Sitter, had done sailing to Cape Town in 1905. On board De Sitter had long discussions with Eddington and the others, about the arrow of time and irreversibility, about the variable stars of Hertzsprung, about the star streams and the universe of Kapteyn, about that of Shapley and Oort, and also about spiral nebulae. Eddington was still very in favour of the De Sitter Universe from 1917, which offered the possibility to explain the nebulae receding from the earth. Dyson advised him not to continue with the satellites of Jupiter. On board they received the message that Rutherford, De Sitter and a few others scientists would receive honorary doctorates from the University of Cape Town. In South Africa De Sitter gave a few lectures, on spiral nebulae, Jupiter’s moons and fundamental declinations. He conferred with Innes and Wood about the telescope Leiden wished to erect on the grounds of the Union Observatory in Johannesburg. He also gave a lecture for the Dutch Club.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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