Joel Stebbins

Joel Stebbins was an American astronomer who pioneered photoelectric photometry in astronomy. He graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Bachelor’s degree in astronomy in 1899. He then went on to acquire his PhD from the Lick Observatory where he worked.

He became an instructor of astronomy at the University of Illinois and director of the University of Illinois Observatory from 1903 to 1922. During this time he performed innovative work with the selenium cell and received the Draper Medal of the National Academy, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1950, and among other honors.

In 1922 he became director of the Washburn Observatory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he remained until 1948. Stebbins developed photoelectric photometry to the point where it succeeded photography as the photometric standard. After 1948, Stebbins actively continued his research at Lick Observatory until his final retirement in 1958.