Putting a new spin on galaxies: Horace W. Babcock, the Andromeda Nebula, and the dark matter revolution

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When a scientist is the first to perform a difficult type of observation and correctly interprets the result as a significant challenge to then-widely accepted core theories, and the result is later recognized as seminal work in a field of major importance, it is a surprise to find that that work was essentially ignored by the scientific community for thirty years. Such was the fate of the doctoral research on the rotations of the Andromeda Nebula (M31) conducted by Horace Welcome Babcock (1912–2003), who went on to become a very prominent astronomer — in an entirely different sub-field, never working on the subject of his dissertation again. This paper seeks to explain the ‘non-reception’ of Babcock’s work on galactic dynamics and the reasons he did no further work in that sub-field. In particular this paper shows that, contrary to the claims of some commentators, the non-reception of Babcock’s work should not be understood as an example of the unjust treatment of a young scientist by the conservative establishment
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First archival date: 2018-11-09
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