JAN ZWICKY Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Fritz Zwicky (February 14, 1898 - February 8, 1974) was an American-based Swiss astronomer.


Life and work


Fritz Zwicky was born in Varna, Bulgaria, although his parents were from Switzerland. He received an advanced education at the Federal Institute of Technology, located in Zurich, Switzerland. In 1925 he emigrated to the United States.


In 1925 he came to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), in the United States. He worked at Caltech for the rest of his career but remained a Swiss citizen. He is famous for referring to colleagues with whom he disagreed as “spherical bastards” (because, he claimed, they were bastards any way one looked at them). He was the first to use the virial theorem to deduce the existence of dark matter. He proposed the use of gravitational lenses.


With Walter Baade, he came up with the idea that supernovae could create neutron stars and produce cosmic rays. He also pioneered and promoted the use of Schmidt telescopes. In his later career, he compiled a Catalogue of Galaxies and of Clusters of Galaxies (CGCG). He won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1972.


The asteroid 1803 Zwicky and Zwicky crater on the moon were both named in his honour.


Fritz Zwicky created the ‘tired light’ theory in 1929 to counter Georges LeMaitre’s and Edwin Hubble’s interpretation of the cosmic red shift. LeMaitre and Hubble, who had the majority of physicists following them, believed that the cosmic red shift is caused by a doppler effect of universal expansion. Fritz Zwicky, who had the minority of physicists following him, believed that the cosmic red shift is caused by photons gradually losing energy over distance due to resisting the gravitational fields between the source and the detector. That means that the photons interact gravitationally with massive bodies such that kinetic energy is transfered from the photons to the massive gravitating bodies, resulting in the photons having a lower frequency, just as matter objects that speed by a massive gravitating body lose speed.


Zwicky also developed a generalised form of morphological analysis, which is a method for systematically structuring and investigating the total set of relationships contained in multi-dimensional, usually non-quantifiable, problem complexes (Ritchey, 2002). He claimed that he made many of his discoveries using this method.