Otto Struve

Otto Struve, 1959

Otto Struve, (1897 - 1963) was one of the few eminent astronomers in the pre-Space Age era to express publicly his belief that extraterrestrial intelligence was abundant, and so was an early advocate of the search for extraterrestrial life. He completed his PhD in 1923 and became director of Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago, subsequently directing four different observatories in all, in addition to serving as editor of the Astrophysical Journal and authoring numerous books. Dr. Struve was also president of the International Astronomical Union.

Dr. Struve’s belief in the widespread existence of life and intelligence in the Universe stemmed from his studies of slow-rotating stars. Many stars, including the sun, spin at a much lower rate than was predicted by contemporary theories of early stellar evolution. The reason for this, he claimed, was that they were surrounded by planetary systems that had carried away much of the stars’ original angular momentum. So numerous were the slow-spinning stars that Dr. Struve estimated, in 1960, there might be as many as 50 billion planets in our galaxy alone.


“The Solar System: Its Origin and Evolution.” November 3, 1959. Kresge Auditorium.
“Stellar Evolution.” November 5, 1959. Kresge Auditorium.
“The Structure and Evolution of the Galaxy.” November 10, 1959. Kresge Auditorium.
“Radio Astronomy.” November 12, 1959. Kresge Auditorium.
“Binary Stars and Variables.” November 17, 1959. Kresge Auditorium.
“Man and the Universe.” November 19, 1959. Kresge Auditorium.


“Extraterrestrial Life,” with Dr. Melvin Calvin, Director, Bio-organic Chemistry Group, Radiation Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Salvador E. Luria, MIT Professor of Microbiology and Seminar Chairman. November 13, 1959.

“Cosmological Theories”, with Dr. Thomas Gold (Cornell University) and Dr. Victor F. Weisskopf, MIT Professor of Physics and Seminar Chairman. November 20, 1959.