Allan Sandage was an observational astronomer who was happiest at a telescope. On the sudden death of Edwin Hubble, Sandage inherited the programmes using the world’s largest optical telescope at Palomar to determine the distances and number counts of galaxies. Over many years he greatly revised the distance scale and, on reworking Hubble’s analysis, discovered the error that had led Hubble to doubt the interpretation of the galaxies’ redshifts as an expansion of the Universe. Sandage showed that there was a consistent age of creation for the stars, the elements and the cosmos. Through work with Baade and Schwarzschild he discovered the key to the interpretation of the colour–magnitude diagrams of star clusters in terms of stellar evolution. With others he founded galactic archaeology, interpreting the motions and elemental abundances of the oldest stars in terms of a model for the Galaxy’s formation. He published several fine atlases and catalogues of galaxies and a definitive history of the Mount Wilson Observatory.
- This publication is © 2012 The Royal Society