October 15, 1909–October 21, 2002


JESSE L. GREENSTEIN WAS born and raised in New York City. He received advanced degrees from Harvard University just before and during the Great Depression. As a graduate student he made pioneering advances in understanding the influence of interstellar dust on the colors and magnitudes of stars. His studies of the nature of interstellar dust continued as he moved westward in the post-Harvard years, first to Yerkes Observatory and later Caltech, where he developed the analysis tools and founded a program of study devoted to the determination of the chemical abundances in stars, a field in which he became the world’s observational leader. His work on a wide array of problems ranging from the properties of QSOs (quasi-stellar objects), the nature of interstellar grains, the evolution of the chemical composition of stars, to the physical properties of white dwarfs provides the currently available fundamental knowledge of each of these fields. He was a leader of U.S. astronomy, and his advice, heeded by both universities and government agencies, shaped the present organization of astronomy as it is conducted in the United States.

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