Skip to main content



Illinois­—Where Astronomical Photometry Grew Up


Barry B. Beaman
6804 Alvina Road, Rockford, IL 61101

Michael T. Svec
Furman University, Department of Education, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville SC 29613

Presented at the 100th Annual Meeting of the AAVSO, October 7, 2011; received January 21, 2012; revised February 2, 2012; accepted February 6, 2012


In 1903 Dr. Joel Stebbins joined the University of Illinois faculty as an astronomy instructor and Director of the University of Illinois Observatory. In 1905 he and F. C. Brown began experimenting with selenium sell photometry and developed the equipment and many of the photometric practices used then. Those practices formed the foundation on which present day photometry processes are based. This paper will trace the history of Stebbins’ career and his development of photoelectric photometry from 1903 to 1922. This story explains how Stebbins’ wife, May, caused a change in astronomical observing that continues today.

link to article in ADS

AAVSO 49 Bay State Rd. Cambridge, MA 02138 617-354-0484