Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Swan, William

Reference work entry

BornEdinburgh, Scotland, 13 March 1818

DiedHelensburgh, (Strathclyde), Scotland, 1 March 1894

William Swan is perhaps best known for his pioneering identification of features due to carbon compounds in the spectra of comets now called Swan bands and seen in stars and other sources. From 1850 to 1852 he was mathematical master in the Free Church of Scotland Normal School, and in 1853 was appointed teacher of mathematics, natural philosophy, and navigation in the Scottish Naval and Military Academy. He pursued scientific studies and published papers in The Philosophical Magazine, among others. Swan served as professor of natural philosophy at the United College of Saint Andrews University, Scotland, from 1859 to 1880, retiring due to ill health.

Swan was said to have been inquisitive, witty, and intelligent, with a fierce intolerance of fraud; he once described a wooden clock as “ferociously coarse and useless.” Like many of his Victorian contemporaries, Swan had multiple interests,...

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Selected References

  1. Anon. (3 March 1894). “Obituary”. St. Andrews Citizen.Google Scholar
  2. Clerke, Agnes M. (1902). A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century. 4th ed. London: Adam and Charles Black.Google Scholar
  3. Galbraith, James L. (1910). A Scotch Professor of the Old School. Glasgow: James MacLehose.Google Scholar
  4. Hearnshaw, J. B. (1986). The Analysis of Starlight: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Astronomical Spectroscopy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Knott, C. G. (1902). “On Swan’s Prism Photometer, commonly called Lummer and Brodhun’s Photometer.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 23: 12–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Pannekoek, A. (1961). A History of Astronomy. London: George Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  7. Poggendorff, J. C. (1898). “Swan.” In Biographisch-literarisches Handwörterbuch. Vol. 2, pp. 1315–1316. Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth.Google Scholar
  8. Swan, William (1884). Address, chiefly on the Graphic Arts, at the Annual Meeting of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts, 12 November 1883. Edinburgh: Neill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.WestfordUSA