January 3, 1906–June 21, 1994
BY DONALD E. OSTERBROCK
WILLIAM W. MORGAN was born and raised in the South, but went to Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin as a student and spent the rest of his life there. He was an outstanding observational astronomer who became a master of spectral classification, a field he dominated for many years. He made important contributions to galactic structure, stellar populations, and galaxy research. Fiercely independent, he insisted on describing rigorously ''the thing itself," whether it was the spectrum of a star or the form of a galaxy; and he demonstrated that an astronomer who consciously rejected astrophysical theory if it conflicted with his own observational data could often be right in the twentieth century.
Morgan was born on January 3, 1906, in Bethesda, Tennessee, a tiny hamlet that no longer exists. His father, William T. Morgan, and his mother, Mary Wilson Morgan, were both home missionaries in the Southern Methodist Church, who went from town to town to spread the Good News. His father, originally a Southern Presbyterian, was a minister who received his training in Chautauqua courses (essentially short-term summer schools) in the South. The