April 25, 1918–October 7, 1995
BY E.MARGARET BURBIDGE
GÉRARD HENRI DE VAUCOULEURS began a lifetime in astronomy as an amateur, observing planets in the solar system from early childhood; his name is especially linked with his early studies of the planet Mars. His major achievements, however, have been in his work on galaxies—the extragalactic universe—and his name will always be tied to that of his wife and coworker in these fields, Antoinette (Piétra) de Vaucouleurs. Gérard was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1986.
Gérard de Vaucouleurs was born in Paris on April 25, 1918; he died in Austin, Texas, on October 7, 1995. His family background and father’s name have proved elusive, since early in life he took the maiden name of his mother, de Vaucouleurs. He had a sister; she died in the same year as his mother, some eight years before his death.
From an early age Gérard was interested in astronomy. As a boy of 10 he observed the Moon from the balcony of his family’s apartment, using a marine telescope borrowed from a friend.1 A few years later his mother purchased a small telescope for him. By age 15 he was an enthusiastic amateur astronomer,2 passionately interested in solar system astronomy. At this young age he observed various stellar