Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Smiley, Charles H.

Charles Hugh Smiley (1903-1977), professor of astronomy, was born in Camden, Missouri, on September 6, 1903. He attended the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of California at Berkeley, graduating with highest honors in mathematics in 1924, and earned his M.A. degree in 1925 and his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1927 at Berkeley. From 1927 to 1929 he was an instructor in mathematics at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He was a Guggenheim fellow in 1929-30, working at the Royal Greenwich Observatory and visiting other European observatories. He was appointed assistant professor of mathematics at Brown in 1930 and associate professor of astronomy in 1938, at which time he was also made director of the Ladd Observatory and chairman of the Department of Astronomy. He was promoted to full professor in 1945. He led fourteen solar eclipse expeditions, in Peru, Canada, Brazil, Thailand, Pakistan, and the United States. On one occasion in 1963 he flew in a U.S. Air Force jet at 48,000 feet, racing the moon’s shadow to view a lunar eclipse longer than any other observer. He also led several expeditions between 1947 and 1952 to determine the atmospheric refraction at low angular altitudes. In 1949 he travelled to Point Barrow, Alaska, on a Navy plane, and later that year flew with an Air Force plane to the true North Pole. He wrote a popular column, “Planets and Stars,” which appeared in the Providence Journal from 1938 to 1957. For many years he studied the Mayan calendar and was able to date the Mayan Codices of Dresden, Paris, and Madrid from astronomical dates which they contained. He was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and president of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. He was a member of the editorial advisory board of Sky & Telescope from 1941 to 1959. Smiley’s wife, the former Margaret Kendall Holbrook, taught astronomy at Wellesley before their marriage. Smiley viewed his last eclipse in Providence in 1974. He died in Providence on July 26, 1977, having been stricken while mowing his lawn.