Hiltner, William Albert

Male 1914 - 1991  (77 years)

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  • Name Hiltner, William Albert  [1
    Born 27 Aug 1914  At home in North Creek, OH Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender Male 
    Education University of Toledo, B.S.; University of Michigan, M.S. PhD. 
    Occupation Professor 
    Died 30 Sep 1991  Ann Arbor, MI Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I1864  Kreider Moyer
    Last Modified 24 Sep 2019 

    Father Hiltner, John Nicholas 
    Mother Schafer, Ida Lavina 
    Family ID F687  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Kreider, Ruth Moyer,   b. 23 Apr 1916, Toledo, Lucas County, OH Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 05 Feb 2011, Cleveland, OH Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 94 years) 
    Married 12 Aug 1939  Reformed Church in Toledo, OH Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
     1. Hiltner, Phyllis Anne,   b. 18 Mar 1941, Toledo, Lucas County, OH Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 06 Sep 2010, Cleveland, OH Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 69 years)  [natural]
    Last Modified 17 May 2018 
    Family ID F666  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 27 Aug 1914 - At home in North Creek, OH Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 12 Aug 1939 - Reformed Church in Toledo, OH Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 30 Sep 1991 - Ann Arbor, MI Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Kreider 50th Wedding Anniversary 1952
    Kreider 50th Wedding Anniversary 1952
    Standing in back, left to right: Al Hiltner, Beth Ziegler, 2 unknown, Virginia Ruggles Kreider, Henry Kreider, Jr., Edwin Allen Ziegler. Seated, left to right: Josephine Kreider Ziegler, Mary Elizabeth Moyer Kreider, Rev Henry Royer Kreider, Sr., Ruth Kreider Hiltner with her oldest son. Seated in front: 3 girls and Anne Hiltner on the right.
    Hiltner, Al and Ruth Kreider wedding August 8, 1939
    Hiltner, Al and Ruth Kreider wedding August 8, 1939

  • Notes 
    • From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      William Albert Hiltner (1914?1991) was an American astronomer, noted for his work leading up to the discovery of interstellar polarization. He was an early practitioner of precision stellar photometry, and a pioneering observer of the optical counterparts of celestial x-ray sources. Director of the Yerkes Observatory for many years, while there he designed and built a rotatable telescope for polarization studies and developed photometric instrumentation. He was the acting director of the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory, then president of the Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy from 1968 until 1971, and was appointed as a director of the University of Michigan in 1970; a post he held until 1982. He established MDM Observatory and led the construction of the Hiltner Telescope which is named for him.

      SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)
      Title: Obituary: William Albert Hiltner, 1914-1991
      Authors: Code, A. D.
      Journal: Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society ; vol. 24, no. 4, p. 1326-1327
      Bibliographic Code: 1992BAAS...24.1326C
      by Arthur D. Code, University of Wisconsin
      William Albert Hiltner was born on August 27, 1914 on his parents? farm in North Creek, Ohio, some 45 miles southwest of Toledo. He received his early education in the one room school house that served this farm community. Al acquired his interest in astronomy while still very young, apparently from an amateur astronomer who lived near the family farm. He purchased a small telescope and was disappointed when he found that Vega still looked like a ?star? despite the magnification afforded by the telescope. Al graduated from a small high school in a graduating class of 17 in 1932. The following year he entered the University of Toledo where he majored in physics and math. It was in his senior year that he decided to make astronomy his life work. Commenting on that choice many years later Al said ?One makes a decision to do astronomy when one is helpless to prevent it!?
      He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toledo in 1937 and started graduate studies in astronomy at the University of Michigan. This was not the end of his interest in Toledo, where he frequently spent his weekends until he married Ruth Kreider, a former classmate. He returned again to Toledo thirty years later to accept an honorary DSc. degree from this, his first alma mater. At the University of Michigan Al obtained an MS degree in 1938 and a PhD in astrophysics in 1942. His thesis research was on the spectra of Be stars, with emphasis on determining color temperatures through accurate spectrophotometry. For this research he and Robely Williams constructed the University of Michigan microphotometer. Later they published the Photometric Atlas of Stellar Spectra. As a National Research Council Fellow he continued his association with the University of Michigan and observed and carried out a productive research program at McDonald Observatory. In 1943 he was appointed an Instructor at Yerkes Observatory and he and his family, which now included two daughters, move to Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, a village only slightly larger than North Creek, Ohio.
      During the early days at Yerkes he continued his spectroscopic studied of Be stars and some of the other pathological cases that had been Otto Struve?s favorites. During World War II Al was engaged in the production of front surface mirrors, and in military optics design and modeling, an experience which influenced his later interest in astronomical instrumentation. It was following the end of the war that I came to Yerkes Observatory as a graduate student and had the opportunity to work with Al on two projects. Otto Struve had suggested that Al develop a program in photoelectric photometry at Yerkes and I was appointed his assistant. We started with a simple system employing a sensitive galvanometer to record the output of a photomultiplier. It was my task to sit near the 40 inch pier, in the basement, in front of the galvanometer scale. From the observing floor above Al would call out the instructions to read the position of the dancing spot of light on the scale. From this humble beginning Al brought photometry and later polarimetry and electronic imaging at Yerkes into the modern era.
      In 1945 Hiltner and Chandrasekhar went to Canada to photograph a total eclipse of the sun. This represented a unique collaboration with the theorist Chandrasekhar, for I believe that the paper showing those photographs remains the only observational research paper ever published by Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Another interaction between Chandra and Al, however, had a much greater impact on astronomy. Chandrasekhar had predicted that when electron scattering was the dominant contributor to the stellar opacity the limb intensity would show linear polarization reaching 11% for pure electron scattering. Al set out to measure this polarization in eclipsing binary systems. He found polarization, but it did not change with binary phase. Indeed many early type stars showed polarization in the several percent range. As the data collected, it became clear that the polarization was produced in the interstellar medium. In 1949, in back-to-back papers in Science, Al Hiltner and John Hall announced the discovery of interstellar polarization. Interstellar polarization gave the first evidence for galactic magnetic fields and a powerful diagnostic on the nature of interstellar grains.
      Over the years Al published over 200 papers in scientific journals. While he continued measurements of polarization, photometry and spectral classification of early type stars he was most interested in binary stars. He made valuable contributions to our understanding of Wolf-Rayet binaries, and after the discovery of x-ray binaries he turned his attention to the study of the optical radiation from these x-ray sources. He enjoyed sharing this research with students and young astronomers and imparting to them the enthusiasm that he himself had for scientific inquiry.
      As Al progressed through the ranks, from Instructor to Professor at the University of Chicago, he took on increased responsibilities as both in instrument innovator and policy maker. Starting in 1959 and continuing until his departure from Yerkes Observatory in 1971, he was the University of Chicago?s representative on the Board of Directors of AURA. The facilities which now cover the summit of Kitt Peak owe much to the efforts of the early Board members. He played an important role in the development of the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile. In 1966 CTIO was without a director and Al served as one of the interim directors until the appointment of Victor Blanco in 1967. He also served as President of AURA from 1968 through 1971. His departure from the Board following his term of office was the result of his departure from Yerkes Observatory after 27 years of productive and diverse activity.
      Al returned to the place where he had received his training in 1970 to become chairman of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Michigan. His ability to imagine and to make things happen led to a fruitful collaborative agreement between Michigan, Dartmouth and MIT. The MDM consortium started with the move of the Michigan 1.3 meter telescope and later the construction of a 2.4 meter telescope, which was designed by Al and now bears his name.
      When Al retired from the University of Michigan in 1985 it was not just be a professor emeritus but rather to take on a new challenge. The Carnegie Institution had embarked on a collaborative effort to produce a very large southern hemisphere telescope. In 1986 Al joined the staff of the Carnegie Observatories to become the Project Manager for the Magellan Telescope Project a program to build an 8-meter telescope to be placed in Chile.
      One of the characteristics which his younger colleagues have remarked on was his ability to keep up-to-date, to keep learning, and as such it was not at all remarkable that he had been chosen to head the Magellan Project. This characteristic, however, applied to his personal as well as his professional life. During his years at Yerkes Observatory he enjoyed sailing on Lake Geneva and canoeing with the family in northern Wisconsin in spite of the fact that he had not learned to swim in his youth. He did learn to swim, however, at the age of 64 and took great pride in that accomplishment, which he enjoyed the rest of his life.
      For the last ten years of his life Al had been under the care of a cardiologist for a deteriorating heart condition. He had resisted surgery until finally in September of 1991 he decided to risk surgery as a last resort. They were unable to get his heart to beat on its own after removing the support system. He is survived by his wife Ruth, and four children, two sons and two daughters.
      Al was a great success as a scientist, a teacher, a builder, and a scientific leader, and went out of his way to instill these attributes in the younger astronomers who had the opportunity to work with him.

      Michigan Historical Collections, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, William A. Hiltner papers, 1942-1991
      William A. Hiltner was born in North Creek, Ohio on August 27, 1914. He received a B.S. in math and physics from the University of Toledo in 1937. Subsequently, he earned a M.S. degree in 1938 and a Ph.D. in astronomy in 1942 from the University of Michigan. In 1967 he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Toledo. From 1942 through 1970, Hiltner was on the faculty at the University of Chicago and during parts of his tenure there was the director of Yerkes Observatory (1963-1966) and acting director of Cerro Tololo InterAmerican Observatory (1966-1967) in Chile. Hiltner's tenure at the University of Michigan began in 1970 when he was appointed chairman of the Department of Astronomy and director of University Observatories. He was chairman of the department until 1983 and retired from the University of Michigan in 1985.
      The focus of Hiltner's research was work on photoelectric photometry which led to the discovery of interstellar polarization. Additionally, his work enabled the identification of a number of X-ray sources and provided the first evidence for a magnetic field pervading the Milky Way galaxy. To help with his ground breaking research, Hiltner designed and developed new instrumental techniques and applications. During his tenure at the University of Michigan, Hiltner was responsible for the establishment of the McGraw-Hill Observatory on Kitt Peak in Arizona which involved the moving of a 1.3-meter reflector from Dexter, Michigan to Arizona and the construction and implementation of a 2.4-meter telescope, which has now been named in his honor. During his lifetime, Hiltner produced more than 200 research papers, book chapters, and other scientific contributions (a partial bibliography may be found in the topical files under "Letters of Merit").
      Hiltner was a member of the International Astronomical Union; the American Astronomical Society; the Astronomical Society of the Pacific; and, the Optical Society of America. He was also a founder and extremely active member of the Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) which runs the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Arizona and Chile.
      William A. Hiltner died September 30, 1991.

  • Sources 
    1. [S19] Josephine's family tree, Josephine Auten.

    2. [S25] Ruth Hiltner interview.