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Thomas Jefferson Jackson (T. J. J.) See, (February 19, 1866 – July 4, 1962) was an American astronomer (born near Montgomery City, Missouri), who received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Berlin in 1892 after taking an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri in 1889.

Scientific work

See specialized in the study of binary stars, particularly in determining their orbits. See initially found work at the University of Chicago, where he worked as an instructor under George Ellery Hale. See left Chicago in 1896 after failing to receive a promotion. He next worked at Lowell Observatory until he was fired in 1898 for his arrogant attitude towards the staff. See's arrogance and overconfidence caused problems throughout his career, in both professional relationships and erroneous scientific results arising from carelessness. After his dismissal from Lowell, See joined the staff of the United States Naval Observatory in 1898.

It was at the Naval Observatory that some of See's previous work, and his arrogance, led to his downfall. Several years earlier, in 1895, while studying the well known binary star 70 Ophiuchi at the University of Chicago (and from a few observations made at the Leander McCormick Observatory of the University of Virginia during a visit in April 1895), See believed he had found small anomalies in the motion of one of the stars suggesting a third object was present and its gravitational influence was affecting the motion of the star (Capt. W. S. Jacob had mentioned this possibility in an earlier study in 1855). See's results were published in the Astronomical Journal. In 1899, Forest R. Moulton analyzed this proposed triple system and demonstrated convincingly that it would be unstable, and therefore very unlikely to actually exist (Moulton also pointed out that an orbit not requiring an unseen companion had been put forth by Eric Doolittle). See took great offense and wrote an abusive letter to the Astronomical Journal. An edited version was published and he was banned from future publication in the Astronomical Journal. See found himself increasingly at odds with other astronomers, and eventually suffered a breakdown in 1902. He spent one semester teaching at the United States Naval Academy, but was then transferred to a naval shipyard at Mare Island, California in charge of the time station, until his retirement in 1930.

In 1910 he published a 700+ page work entitled Researches on the Evolution of the Stellar Systems, Vol. II, The Capture Theory of Cosmical Evolution. In this work he describes his task to "brush aside the erroneous doctrines heretofore current, as one would the accumulated dust and cobwebs of ages..". In 1913 William Larkin Webb published a Brief Biography and Popular Account of the Unparalleled Discoveries of T. J. J. See. Webb was a newspaper publisher and amateur astronomer, and a long-time admirer of See, a fellow Missourian. The book, which many regarded to have been written by See himself, essentially destroyed any remaining credibility he had in the astronomical community. The Nation published a review of the book poking fun at its extraordinary hyperbole, which included such material as: "The infant See, we are told, first saw the light on the 393rd anniversary of Copernicus's birth, ...[and] showed himself "every inch a natural philosopher" by speculating on the origins of the sun, moon and stars at the tender age of two, never so much as dreaming that he should grow into a little boy with "methodical methods", and one day become "the greatest astronomer in the world".

See spent the years at Mare Island pursuing fame as a discoverer of the laws of nature, issuing a series of publications on the origin of the solar system, the size of the Milky Way and the cause of sunspots and earthquakes. He also wrote a series of articles about the Aether, which eventually totalled nearly 300 pages, and served as the framework for his theory of everything, in which all forces were transmitted as aetheric waves.

He also engaged in vitriolic attacks against Einstein and his theory of relativity, which Einstein essentially ignored. The scientific community also ignored See's criticisms of relativity.

See's numerous papers are in the collection of the Library of Congress.

Selected writings

* See, T. J. J. (1896). "Researches on the orbit of 70 Ophiuchi, and on a periodic perturbation in the motion of the system arising from the action of an unseen body". The Astronomical Journal 16: 17 – 23. doi:10.1086/102368.
* See, T. J. J. (1899). "Remarks on Mr. Moulton's paper in A.J. 461". The Astronomical Journal 20: 56. doi:10.1086/103115.
* See, T. J. J. 1910, "Researches on the evolution of the stellar systems: v. 2. The capture theory of cosmical evolution, founded on dynamical principles and illustrated by phenomena observed in the spiral nebulae, the planetary system, the double and multiple stars and clusters and the star-clouds of the Milky Way." T.P. Nichols (Lynn, Mass.)
* See, T. J. J. 1920, Astronomische Nachrichten, 211, 49: "New Theory of the Aether"

Further reading

* Jacob, W. S. (1855). "On Certain Anomalies presented by the Binary Star 70 Ophiuchi". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 15: 228 – 230.
* Doolittle, E. R. (1897). "The Orbit of 70 Ophiuchi". The Astronomical Journal 17: 121 – 122. doi:10.1086/102680.
* Moulton, F. R. (1899). "The Limits of Temporary Stability of Satellite Motion, with an Application to the Question of the Existence of an Unseen Body in the Binary System 70 Ophiuchi". The Astronomical Journal 20: 33 – 37. doi:10.1086/103096.
* Webb, William Larkin, 1913 "Brief Biography and Popular Account of the Unparalleled Discoveries of T. J. J. See" T.P. Nichols & Son (Lynn, Mass.)
* "Professor See", review of Brief Biography and Popular Account of the Unparalleled Discoveries of T.J.J. See, The Nation, xcviii, 1914, pp 307-308
* "Capt. T. J. J. See, Astronomer, 96: Co-Founder of Observatory Dies -- Disputed Einstein" The New York Times, Jul 5, 1962, p 22
* Obituary, Physics Today, volume 15(8), (August, 1962) page 80
* "The Sage of Mare Island" from The Astronomical Scrapbook, Joseph Ashbrook, 1984, Cambridge University Press, pp. 111-115. (See also Sky & Telescope, October, 1962, page 193)
* Sherrill, T. J. (1999). "A Career of Controversy: The Anomaly of T. J. J. See". Journal of the History of Astronomy 30: 25 – 50.


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