Thomas Jefferson Jackson See


Thomas Jefferson Jackson See

Thomas Jefferson Jackson (T. J. J.) See, (1866 to July 4, 1962) was an American Astronomer (born near Montgomery City , Missouri), who received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Berlin in 1892 after taking an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri in 1889. See specialized in the study of binary stars, particularly in determining their orbits. See initially found work at the University of Chicago, where he worked as an instructor under George Ellery Hale. See left Chicago in 1896 after failing to receive a promotion. He next worked at Lowell Observatory until he was fired in 1898 for his arrogant attitude towards the staff. See's arrogance and overconfidence caused problems throughout his career, in both professional relationships and erroneous scientific results arising from carelessness. After his dismissal from Lowell, See joined the staff of the United States Naval Observatory in 1898.

It was at the Naval Observatory that some of See's previous work, and his arrogance, led to his downfall. Several years earlier, in 1895, while studying the well known binary star 70 Ophiuchi at the University of Chicago (and from a few observations made at the Leander McCormick Observatory of the University of Virginia during a visit in April 1895), See believed he had found small anomalies in the motion of one of the stars suggesting a third object was present and its gravitational influence was affecting the motion of the star (Capt. W. S. Jacob had mentioned this possibility in an earlier study in 1855). See's results were published in the Astronomical Journal. In 1899, Forest R. Moulton analyzed this proposed triple system and demonstrated convincingly that it would be unstable, and therefore very unlikely to actually exist (Moulton also pointed out that an orbit not requiring an unseen companion had been put forth by Eric Doolittle). See took great offense and wrote an abusive letter to the Astronomical Journal. An edited version was published and he was banned from future publication in the Astronomical Journal. See found himself increasingly at odds with other astronomers, and eventually suffered a breakdown in 1902. He spent one semester teaching at the United States Naval Academy, but was then transferred to a naval shipyard at Mare Island, California in charge of the time station, until his retirement in 1930.

In 1910 he published a 700+ page work entitled "Researches on the Evolution of the Stellar Systems, Vol. II, The Capture Theory of Cosmical Evolution." In this work he describes his task to "brush aside the erroneous doctrines heretofore current, as one would the accumulated dust and cobwebs of ages..". In 1913 William Larkin Webb published "Brief Biography and Popular Account of the Unparalleled Discoveries of T. J. J. See". Webb was a newspaper publisher and amateur astronomer, and longtime admirer of fellow Missourian See. This book, which many regarded to have been written by See himself, essentially destroyed any remaining credibility he had in the astronomical community. The Nation published a review of the book which poked fun at the extraordinary hyperbole:

See spent the years at Mare Island pursuing fame as the discoverer of the laws of nature, issuing a series of publications on the origin of the solar system, the size of the Milky Way and the cause of sunspots and earthquakes. He also wrote a series of articles about the Aether, which eventually totalled nearly 300 pages, and served as his framework for his theory of everything. All forces were carried as waves in his ether. He calculated that the probability that his wave theory was a correct description of nature to be infinity to the 200th power to 1.

He also engaged in vitriolic attacks against Einstein and his theory of relativity, which Einstein essentially ignored. The serious scientific community also ignored See's books on relativity.

See's numerous papers are in the collection of the Library of Congress.

References


* Sherrill, T. J., 1999, Journal of the History of Astronomy, 30, 25: "A Career of Controversy: The Anomaly of T. J. J. See"
* "The Sage of Mare Island" from The Astronomical Scrapbook, Joseph Ashbrook, 1984, Cambridge University Press, pp. 111-115.
* "Capt. T. J. J. See, Astronomer, 96: Co-Founder of Observatory Dies -- Disputed Einstein" The New York Times, Jul 5, 1962, p 22
* See, T. J. J. 1920, Astronomische Nachrichten, 211, 49: "New Theory of the Aether"
* See, T. J. J. 1910, "Researches on the evolution of the stellar systems: v. 2. The capture theory of cosmical evolution, founded on dynamical principles and illustrated by phenomena observed in the spiral nebulae, the planetary system, the double and multiple stars and clusters and the star-clouds of the Milky Way." T.P. Nichols (Lynn, Mass.)
* "Professor See", review of "Brief Biography and Popular Account of the Unparalleled Discoveries of T.J.J. See", "The Nation", xcviii, 1914, pp 307-308.
* Webb, William Larkin, 1913 "Brief Biography and Popular Account of the Unparalleled Discoveries of T. J. J. See" T.P. Nichols & Son (Lynn, Mass.)
* See, T. J. J., 1899, The Astronomical Journal, 20, 56: "Remarks on Mr. Moulton's paper in A.J. 461"
* Moulton, F. R., 1899, The Astronomical Journal, 20, 33: "The limits of temporary stability of satellite motion, with an application to the question of the existence of an unseen body in the binary system 70 Ophiuchi"
* Doolittle, E. R., 1897, The Astronomical Journal, 17, 121: "The orbit of 70 Ophiuchi"
* See, T. J. J. 1896, The Astronomical Journal, 16, 17: "Researches on the orbit of 70 Ophiuchi, and on a periodic perturbation in the motion of the system arising from the action of an unseen body"
* W.S. Jacob, "On Certain Anomalies presented by the Binary Star 70 Ophiuchi", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 15, 228, 1855.

Persondata
NAME= See, Thomas Jefferson Jackson
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=See, Thomas J. J.; See, T.J.J.
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Astronomer
DATE OF BIRTH=1866
PLACE OF BIRTH=Missouri
DATE OF DEATH=1962
PLACE OF DEATH=


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