Charles J. Lada

Rossi Lectures: The Modern Problem of Galactic Star Formation. Background: Search for stellar origin from Anaxagoras to Ambartsumian

Most of what we know about the origins of stars and plantets we have learned in the past quarter century, yet the question of stellar origins is among the oldest in astronomy. In order to understand star formation in the scientific sense one must first understand the very nature of stars themselves. In this lecture I explore the quest to decipher the nature of stars and stellar origins and address the question of why it took so long for star formation to become an active branch of modern astronomical research. I will review ideas and concepts of stellar origins from the ancient Greeks to Newton and then to William Herschel who in the eighteenth century proposed a surprisingly modern picture of star formation. I will discuss the "dark ages" of the nineteenth century when the infusion of new techonolgy aided by physics setback research in this field for nearly a century. Finally I will review the advances in physics and astronomy in the early twentieth century (including the critical discoveries of the composition and energy generation of stars) that set the stage for the renaissance in star formation research that began in mid to late twentieth century and continues today.

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