John A. Eddy bigraphy, stories - American astronomer

John A. Eddy : biography

March 25, 1931 - June 10, 2009

John Allen "Jack" Eddy (March 25, 1931—June 10, 2009) was an American astronomer who published professionally under the name John A. Eddy but much of the content referencing him can be found under his nickname Jack which he preferred to use. In 1976 Dr. Eddy published a landmark paper in Science titled "The Maunder Minimum" where, using the Nineteenth Century works of Edward W. Maunder and Gustav Spörer, he identified a 70-year period from 1645 to 1715 as a time when solar activity all but stopped. In making the case for the anomaly, he gathered and interpreted data from a wide variety of sources, including first-hand accounts from extant historical observations of the Sun going back to the telescopic observations of Galileo and other contemporary scientists of the 17th and early 18th centuries; from historical reports of the aurora borealis observed in past centuries in Europe and the New World; from visual observations of sunspots seen with the unaided eye at sunrise and sunset in dynastic records from the Orient; from existing descriptions of the eclipsed Sun; and from measurements of carbon-14 in dated tree-rings. In the last of these, which can be used as a proxy indicator of solar activity, he found evidence of other similar periods of solar quiescence in the distant past, the most recent an even longer 90-year span, from about 1460 until 1550, which he named the Spörer Minimum. Both the Maunder and Spörer minima fell during the coldest parts of the Little Ice Age, which suggested a meaningful connection between the longer term behavior of the Sun and of the Earth’s mean surface temperature. In advancing the theory that the Sun is a variable star Eddy observed: "It has long been thought that the Sun is a constant star of regular and repeatable behavior. Measurements of the radiative output, or solar constant, seem to justify the first assumption, and the record of periodicity in sunspot numbers is taken as evidence of the second. Both records, however, sample only the most recent history of the Sun."


HONORS: Final version of Curriculum Vitae of John A. Eddy dated 2007, from his personal papers.

  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1988.
  • Arctowski Medal in Solar and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, National Academy of Sciences, 1987
  • Visiting Scientist, University of Durham, England, 1985, 1987.
  • James Arthur Prize Lecture in Solar and Solar Terrestrial Physics, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 1983.
  • Research Fellow, National Geographic Society, 1975-1976.
  • NCAR Award for Outstanding Performance in New Technology, 1973.
  • Sigma Xi-RESA Boulder Scientist Award, 1965.
  • National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellow, 1962-1963.



  • John A. Eddy, Solar Detective, Dies at 78; NY Times Science By Bruce Weber, Published: June 17, 2009, NY Times
  • Obituary: John A. Eddy; Boulder Daily Camera
  • Jack Eddy; Daily Telegraph Science Obituaries, Published June 21, 2009, Daily Telegraph Science Obituaries
  • Obituary: John A. Eddy '53; U.S. Naval Academy, Alumni Association



  • The New Solar Physics (Editor) Westview Press. 1978, 214 pp, ISBN 0-89158-444-7.
  • A New Sun (The Solar Results from Skylab) , U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979. 198 pp.
  • The Ancient Sun (Co-Editor, with R.O. Pepin and R.B. Merrill) Pergamon Press, 1980, 581 pp, ISBN 0-08-026324-0.
  • Mapping the Sky (Co-Editor, with S. DeBarbat, H.K. Eichhom and A.R. Upgren) Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988, 512 pp, ISBN 90-277-2809-7.
  • Global Changes in the Perspective of the Past (Co-Editor, with H. Oeschger) John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 1993, 383 pp., ISBN 0-471-93603-0.
  • The Sun, the Earth and Near-Earth Space: A Guide to the Sun-Earth System; , U.S., 2009, 311 pp, ISBN 0160838088.
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