Born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on September 1, 1902, Dirk Brouwer received his Ph.D. in 1927 at the University of Leiden. He then moved to America to join the faculty at Yale University, where he worked in celestial mechanics with Dr. Ernest W. Brown. While still a student in Holland, Brouwer had already determined the mass of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan from its gravitational influence on Saturn’s other moons. From 1941 until his death in 1966, Dr. Brouwer was chairman of Yale’s Astronomy department, director of the Yale University Observatory and editor of the Astronomical Journal.
Dirk Brouwer was renowned for developing general methods for determining orbits and applying these methods to comets, asteroids, and planets. In 1951, he became one of the first to use electronic computers for astronomical computations. With this innovation, he calculated the orbits of the first artificial satellites, and from them, obtained increased knowledge of the shape of the earth, and re-determined astronomical constants. Brouwer’s 1961 masterpiece, Methods of Celestial Mechanics, taught a generation of scientists.
Dr. Dirk Brouwer was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1951. For his contributions to celestial mechanics he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1955. Dr. Brouwer died in New Haven, Connecticut on January 31, 1966, the same year he was given the Catherine Wolfe Bruce Medal by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in recognition of his lifetime of achievements. Asteroid 1746 Brouwer is named in his honor, and a crater on the Moon is named after both him and Dutch mathematician Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer.
Dr. Brouwer is also commemorated by the Dirk Brouwer Award of the American Astronomical Society. It is awarded for outstanding contributions to the field of Dynamical Astronomy, including celestial mechanics, astrometry, geophysics, and stellar system, galactic and extra-galactic dynamics.