Joel Stebbins was an American astronomer who pioneered photoelectric photometry in astronomy. He was director of the University of Illinois Observatory from 1903 to 1922 where he performed innovative work with the selenium cell. In 1922 he became director of the Washburn Observatory at the University of Wisconsinâ€“Madison where he remained until 1948. After 1948, Stebbins continued his research at Lick Observatory until his final retirement in 1958.
Stebbins brought photoelectric photometry from its infancy in the early 1900s to a mature technique by the 1950s, when it succeeded photography as the primary method of photometry. He used the new technique to investigate eclipsing binaries, the reddening of starlight by interstellar dust, colors of galaxies, and variable stars.