Kuiper is best known as the eponym for the ‘Kuiper Belt’. Image credit: Gelderen, Hugo van / Anefo
Growing up as a village boy in northern Holland, Gerard Kuiper eventually ended up as arguably one of the fathers of modern planetary science. The American-Dutch astronomer has many achievements to his name. The most literal and notable of these achievements is the proposal of the ‘Kuiper Belt’ – named after him upon discovery. Although he’s best known for his belt, he also discovered and predicted many aspects of our Solar System that altered the planetary sciences.
He was born in Tuitjenhorn, Holland on 7 December 1905, the son of a tailor. He possessed extraordinary sight – Kuiper could apparently decipher the stars to a magnitude of 7.5! This is something that could have ignited his love of astronomy, seeing more stars than anyone else and wanting to see even more. Kuiper eventually went on to gain a Bachelor of Science degree in Astronomy from Leiden University in 1927, followed by a doctoral thesis on binary stars in 1933.
This began a fruitful career for Kuiper, who worked for many observatories, beginning with the Lick Observatory. Following Lick was Harvard College Observatory, ...