astrophysicist who used spectroscopy to identify the elements in astronomical
bodies, especially comets.
Swings was born in Ransart, near Charleroi, and studied at Liège, where he was professor 1932-75, with several years as visiting professor at a number of US universities.
From his study of cometary atmospheres, he is credited with the discovery of the Swings bands and the Swings effect. Swings bands are emission lines resulting from the presence of certain atoms of carbon; the Swings effect was discovered with the aid of a slit spectrograph and is attributed to fluorescence resulting partly from solar radiation.
Swings also made spectroscopic studies of interstellar space and investigated stellar rotation, as well as nebulae, novae, and variable stars.