Willem Jacob Luyten

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Willem Jacob Luyten
Born(1899-03-07)March 7, 1899
DiedNovember 21, 1994(1994-11-21) (aged 95)
Minneapolis, United States
Alma materLeiden University
AwardsJames Craig Watson Medal (1964)
Bruce Medal (1968)
Scientific career
InstitutionsLick Observatory,
Harvard College Observatory
University of Minnesota
Doctoral advisorEjnar Hertzsprung

Willem Jacob Luyten (March 7, 1899 – November 21, 1994) was a Dutch-American astronomer.[1][2][3][4][5]


Jacob Luyten was born in Semarang, Java, at the time part of the Dutch East Indies.[2] His mother was Cornelia M. Francken and his father Jacob Luyten, a teacher of French.

At the age of 11 he observed Halley's Comet, which started his fascination with astronomy. He also had a knack for languages, and eventually could speak nine. In 1912 his family moved back to the Netherlands where he studied astronomy at the University of Amsterdam, receiving his BA in 1918.

He was the first student to earn his PhD (at the age of 22) with Ejnar Hertzsprung at Leiden University. In 1921 he left for the United States where he first worked at the Lick Observatory. From 1923 to 1930 Luyten worked at the Harvard College Observatory eventually working at the observatory's Bloemfontein station. He spent the years 1928–1930 in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where he met Willemina H. Miedema and married her on February 5, 1930.

Upon his return to the United States in 1931, he taught at the University of Minnesota from 1931–1967, then served as astronomer emeritus from 1967 until his death.

Luyten studied the proper motions of stars and discovered many white dwarfs. He also discovered some of the Sun's nearest neighbors, including Luyten's Star as well as the high–proper motion star system Luyten 726-8, which was soon found to contain the remarkable flare star UV Ceti.

He also catalogued 17,000 high-proper motion stars in the Luyten Two-Tenths Arcsecond Catalog.[6] An exoplanet was discovered orbiting one of them, LTT 1445A.[7]



Named after him


  1. ^ "Willem Jacob Luyten", Marquis Who's Who, 2006.
  2. ^ a b Upgren, Arthur R. (1995). "Willem Jacob Luyten (1899–1994)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 107 (713): 603–605. Bibcode:1995PASP..107..603U. doi:10.1086/133599.
  3. ^ Abt, H. A. (1968). "Award of the Bruce Gold Medal to Professor Willem J. Luyten". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 80 (474): 247–250. Bibcode:1968PASP...80..247A. doi:10.1086/128625.
  4. ^ Upgren, A. R. (1996). "Willem Jacob Luyten (1899–1994)". Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society. Royal Astronomical Society. 37 (3): 453–456. Bibcode:1996QJRAS..37..453U. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  5. ^ Luyten, J. R. (1995). "Willem Jacob Luyten, 1899–1994". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. American Astronomical Society. 27 (4): 1480–1481. Bibcode:1995BAAS...27.1480L. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  6. ^ "Luyten Two-Tenths Arcsecond Catalog".
  7. ^ "Bad Astronomy | TESS finds a super-Earth orbiting a star in a nearby triple-red-dwarf star system | SYFY WIRE". 2 July 2019.

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