Forest Ray Moulton

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Forest Ray Moulton

Forest Ray Moulton (born April 29, 1872 in Le Roy , Michigan , † December 7, 1952 in Wilmette , Illinois ) was an American astronomer, mathematician and science organizer.


Forest Ray Moulton was born on April 29, 1872 as the first son of the farmer and war veteran Belah G Moulton and Mary C Smith in a forest hut near Le Roy, Michigan, which is why his mother called him Forest (German: forest). He was taught by his parents and grandparents until after attending a small school were taught together in all ages, to the Albion College in Albion ( Michigan moved) until its completion in 1894 where he worked from 1892 as a part-time teachers. In 1895 he moved to the University of Chicago , where he graduated in 1898 - a year before his formal doctorate1899 - was appointed associate professor and director of the astronomical faculty, he was appointed full professor in 1912. After he had headed the ballistics research as a major in the Aberdeen Proving Ground of the US Army during the First World War , he returned to the university back from Chicago. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1910, the American Philosophical Society in 1916, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1919 . In 1926 he left university to become director of the Utilities Power and Light Company in Chicago and advisor to the company's president. He left the company in 1937 and became permanent secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science , a position he held until his retirement in 1948.

Moulton married Estella L Gillette in 1896 , with whom he had five children. He was divorced in 1936 and married Alicia Pratt in 1939 , from whom he divorced in 1951.


Moulton was mainly concerned with celestial mechanics and the related mathematical problems (when determining orbit he made improvements to the formula for numerical integration of differential equations by John Couch Adams ), but was also very well known outside of science: in addition to his popular scientific publications, he was also one of the first professors to use the new medium of radio to convey science - during his time in Chicago he regularly presented science programs on radio.

Together with the geologist Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin, Moulton developed the theory of the formation of the planets and moons of the solar system from planetesimals , developing a closed theory from Chamberlin's original ideas. He also gave a simple example of an affine plane in which Desargues' theorem does not apply (simpler than the example of David Hilbert in his Fundamentals of Geometry - he therefore adopted it in later editions). After that, the Moulton Plain was named after him.

The Adams-Moulton process, a multi-step process , is named after him and John Couch Adams . The asteroid (993) Moultona is also named after him.

Moulton's most famous student was Edwin Hubble .


  • New Methods in Exterior Ballistics . Chicago, 1936.
  • Differential equations . New York: Dover, 1958.
  • An Introduction to Celestial Mechanics , 1902, 2nd rev. ed. New York: Dover, 1970.
  • An introduction to astronomy 1906
  • Descriptive Astronomy 1912
  • Periodic Orbits 1920
  • The nature of the world and man 1926
  • Astronomy 1931
  • Consider the Heavens , 1935

Web links


  1. ^ Moulton A Simple Non-Desarguesian Plane Geometry , Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, Volume 3, 1902, pp. 192-195
  2. ^ Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, Volume 1 in the Google Book Search