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Geoffrey G. Douglass






Geoffrey Gardner Douglass was born 11 June 1942 in Rocky River, Ohio, and grew up there with a passion for science, theatre, and pets. He attended the nearby Case Institute of Technology (Cleveland, Ohio) before coming to the U.S. Naval Observatory on April 28, 1967.


He worked at the USNO for over 30 years, until his retirement in January 1999. He was involved in the observing and measurement of parallax and double star plates on the SAMM and MANN measuring engines, and was stationed at Blenheim, New Zealand from 1985-1988 working at the Black Birch site on the Twin Astrograph Telescope. While there he and his wife Doris travelled extensively throughout New Zealand and Australia, He later worked with an early iteration of the USNO StarScan measuring machine. However, most of his work involved observations of visual double stars with the USNO 26" Clark Refractor, from collaborating with F.J. ("Jerry") Josties on the photographic program in the late 1960's to development of the USNO's speckle interferometry program throughout the 1990's.

Geoff collaborated with Charles Worley from 1968 until Charles' death in December 1997, writing much of the double star software and assisting in the production of the observatory's double star catalogs. It was often joked that the "w' and "D" in the WDS (officially the "Washington Double Star" catalog) really stood for "Worley" and "Douglass" .

During his last year at the observatory he oversaw the publication of over 10,000 speckle observations, and guided the recently hired Brian Mason (Charles' replacement) in the management of the double star program. He continued to have an interest in the activities at the USNO even during his long hospitalizaton, and was regularly sought out for his knowledge on instrumentation and earlier observations.

He battled with illness for many years. He was a symbol of the worthiness of organ donation, living for some two decades following a kidney transplant, before succumbing to complications following kidney failure .

Geoff is survived by his wife Doris, with whom he shared a love of cats and classical music, as well as passionate religous beliefs. He will be sorely missed by his many friends and colleagues.


 A brief summary of his work can be found at





A model of the orbital planes of the visual double stars.

A research made at the Observatoire Royal de Belgique some thirty-five years ago by J. Dommanget and O. Nys, has shown some specific space organisation of the orbital planes of the visual double stars on the contrary of what was thought since more than a century. A tri-dimensional model based on 70 stars showed this organisation very clearly especialy in the Sun's environment.

Twenty years later a second research (1982-1987) concerning 145 stars, confirmed this result which was observed with more precision on a second model that was exhibited, during the IAU Colloquium n° 97 "Wide components in double and multiple stars" held at Brussels in 1987. (See: Astrophysics and Space Science, 142, 1988, pp. 171-176).

A short presentation of this model has recently been given in the Bulletin de la Commission des Etoiles doubles de la Societe Astronomique de France, n° 42 of march 2004, pp. 13-14 and an historical synthesis of the various researches made on this subject since 1838 by J. H. MADLER will appear in Ciel et Terre n° 121, 1, 2005. On these occasions and on that of a few talks on the subject, it was decided to transfer this model from the Observatoire Royal de Belgique to the Observatoire de la Cote d' Azur, France where it will be preserved.

In the framework of the project "Museal" , near to the historical refractors of the Nice Observatory, this model will be integrated in the presentation devoted to the double star researches.

J. Dommanget.





Any contributions will be gratefully accepted



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