Thomas Jefferson Jackson See

Thomas Jefferson Jackson See (1866-1962). American astronomer and mathematician. He was born in Missouri and received undergraduate degrees from Missouri State University 1889-1892 and a Ph. D. from the University of Berlin in 1893. See worked at the Lowell Observatory but was fired in 1898. See had problems working with his colleagues and was considered peculiar and too egotistical. He was soon appointed as chief astronomer at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. ( 1899-1902) and then became in charge of the Mare Island Naval Observatory in Vallejo, CA ( 1903-1930). When Pluto was discovered, the name Cronus for it was rejected because it was suggested by See.

There were claims that See was involved in plagiarism and had appropriated the work of others. The Nation, Vol. 94 #2440, 4 April 1912, page 344: “Dr. Moulton of the University of Chicago, whose ‘Celestial Mechanics,’ published eight years previously, See seems to have flattered by imitating, not to say transferring bodily without acknowledgment, some important passages, goes so far as to dub the capture theory presented by Dr. See the ‘captured theory.’”

Previously (1899) See made an attack on Forrest R. Moulton when Moulton published a paper criticizing See’s opinion about a triple star system since Moulton proved that such a system would be unstable. After that The Astronomical Journal refused to publish See’s papers and opinions. See also claimed that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was a fallacy and made harsh attacks against Einstein. Some of See’s theories were rejected – such as his opinion that the moon was a planet captured by the Earth’s gravity.

See did work on binary stars and also on the Wave Theory. He also wrote extensively on Aether. See worked for many years at Mare Island and lived until his death in Vallejo, CA. Some of his papers are located in the McCune Collection in Vallejo.

The McCune Collection has two volume of See’s works:

  • Researches on the evolution of the stellar systems: v1. The Nichols Press – Thomas Nichols. Lynn, MA 1896.
  • Researches on the evolution of the stellar systems: v2. The Nichols Press – Thomas Nichols. Lynn, MA 1910.

The collection also has original notes, copies of some letters and other miscellaneous items associated with Thomas Jefferson Jackson See. Among items in the McCune Collection concerning Dr. See are:

  • Various proof material (illustrations and images) for his published works.
  • Copies of letters addressed to Dr. See by various individuals who received copies of his Evolution of the Stellar Systems, Volume 2. Some of the individuals are F.W. Dyson (Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England), Charles C. Conroy (St. Vincent College, Los Angeles, CA), Luther Burbank (Santa Rosa, CA), Waldemar Kaempfert (Scientific America, NY, NY), E.E. Barnard (Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago), Champ Clark (Democratic politician) Charles Lane Poor (American astronomy professor), and others.
  • Correspondence (Nov-Dec 1925) with members of Congress regarding establishment of Corps of Professor of Mathematics in the Navy.
  • Correspondence (5 Jan 1931) from T.J.J. See to Dr. John Brown Scott of the Carnegie Endowment Fund concerning a National Observatory of Peru.
  • Correspondence (15 Oct 1935) from T.J.J. See to Professor W.F. Durand indicating that the Navy should not abandon lighter than air ships.
  • Handwritten manuscript and typed copy of See’s Confirmation of the Wave-Theory of Universal Gravitation: Notice of an Error in a Paper by Dr. C. Johnstone Stoney (Monthly Notices June 1903).
  • Photocopies of articles by or concerning Dr. See in the Scientific American Supplement (S.A.S):
    • Venus and Its Problems. Its Rotation and Its Possible Life. S.A.S. #1776. 15 Jan 1910. Page 46.
    • The Origin of Stellar Systems. Prof. See’s Researches. S.A.S. #1781. 19 Feb 1910. Page 119.
    • The Origin of Lunar Craters. A Consideration of the Impact Theory. S.A.S. #1786. 26 March 1910. Page 204.
    • Cosmical Evolution. A New Theory. S.A.S. 29 Oct 1910.

Photo of Thomas Jefferson Jackson SeePhoto of Thomas Jefferson Jackson See


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