Famous 18th Century Astronomers

Find out more about the greatest 18th Century Astronomers, including Pierre-Simon Laplace, William Herschel, Benjamin Banneker, Edmond Halley and Patrick Wilson.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 William Herschel

William Herschel
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: November 15, 1738
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hanover, Germany
Died: August 23, 1822

William Herschel was a German-born British astronomer and composer. He pioneered the use of astronomical spectrophotometry and discovered infrared radiation. Impressed by his work, King George III appointed him the Court Astronomer. Herschel often collaborated with his sister, Caroline Lucretia Herschel, a fellow astronomer. In 1816, he was made a Knight of the Royal Guelphic Order. 

 2 Pierre-Simon Laplace

Pierre-Simon Laplace
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: March 23, 1749
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Beaumont-en-Auge, France
Died: March 5, 1827

Though French scholar Pierre-Simon Laplace is primarily known for his work on the solar system, his research extended to areas such as mathematics and physics, apart from astronomy. Widely known as the Newton of France, he escaped being executed during the French Revolution, owing to his lack of political views.

 3 Caroline Herschel

Caroline Herschel
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: March 16, 1750
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hanover, Germany
Died: January 9, 1848

Caroline Herschel was a German astronomer who is credited with the discovery of many comets, such as 35P/Herschel-Rigollet, which is named in her honor. In 1828, Herschel became the first woman to be honored with a Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. She was also the first female scientist to receive a salary.

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 4 Joseph Louis Lagrange

Joseph Louis Lagrange
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: January 25, 1736
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Turin, Italy
Died: April 10, 1813

Joseph Louis Lagrange was an Italian mathematician and astronomer who made significant contributions to the fields of number theory, analysis, and both classical and celestial mechanics. He served as the director of mathematics at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin for over 20 years. He later moved to France and became a member of the French Academy of Sciences. 

 5 Edmond Halley

Edmond Halley
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: November 8, 1656
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Haggerston, London, England
Died: January 14, 1742

Edmond Halley was an English astronomer and mathematician who was mainly concerned with practical applications of science. He abandoned college education to travel to St. Helena. He published catalogue of 341 southern stars with telescopically determined locations. Known for his wide range of interest, he helped Newton to publish his magnum opus,  Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. He used Newton's Law of Motion to compute periodicty of Halley’s Comet.

 6 Giovanni Domenico Cassini

Giovanni Domenico Cassini
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Famous As: Astronomer and Mathematician
Birthdate: June 8, 1625
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Perinaldo, Italy
Died: September 14, 1712
Italian-French mathematician and astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini is best remembered for his discovery of four moons of Saturn, the computation of Jupiter’s rotational period, and the observation of the Cassini Division, or the gap between Saturn’s rings. King Louis XIV made him a member of the Académie des Sciences

 7 Carl F. Gauss

Carl F. Gauss
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Famous As: Mathematician, Physicist
Birthdate: April 30, 1777
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Brunswick, Germany
Died: February 23, 1855

German mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss is remembered for his work in math and science. Known as the Princeps mathematicorum, he laid down tenets such as the Gauss's Law. He had exhibited his talent since an early age and had completed writing Disquisitiones Arithmeticae by 21.

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 8 Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker
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Famous As: Compiler of Almanacs
Birthdate: November 9, 1731
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Baltimore County
Died: October 9, 1806

Benjamin Banneker was born to a free African-American mother and a former slave father, and was largely self-educated. While he showed immense talent in both mathematics and astronomy, having predicted a solar eclipse with precision, he also wrote essays on civil rights and rallied against slavery.

 9 Charles Messier

Charles Messier
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: June 26, 1730
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Badonviller
Died: April 12, 1817

French astronomer Charles Messier is remembered for his pioneering tabulation of nebulae, making it easier to differentiate between nebulae and comets. King Louis XV name him The Comet Ferret. He was drawn to astronomy when he witnessed a solar eclipse and the great six-tailed comet in childhood.

 10 Mary Somerville

Mary Somerville
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Famous As: Mathematician, Linguist, Translator, Astronomer, Scientist
Birthdate: December 26, 1780
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jedburgh
Died: November 28, 1872

One of the two pioneering female honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society, Mary Somerville was a 19th-century polymath and science writer. Though she specialized in math and astronomy, she was also well-versed in botany and geology. The Connection of the Physical Sciences remains her most notable work.

 11 Anders Celsius

Anders Celsius
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Famous As: Astronomer, Physicist, Mathematician
Birthdate: November 27, 1701
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Uppsala
Died: April 25, 1744
Inventor of the centigrade or the Celcius scale of temperature, Swedish astronomer and scientist Anders Celsius was no stranger to science, being the son of an astronomy professor and the grandson of mathematician Magnus Celsius. His expeditions confirmed Isaac Newton's belief that the earth was flattened at the poles.

 12 John Herschel

John Herschel
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Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: March 7, 1792
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Slough, Buckinghamshire, England
Died: May 11, 1871

The son of renowned astronomer William Herschel, John Herschel was educated at Eton and Cambridge and grew up to be a polymath. Apart from contributing to the field of photography, he was known for cataloguing and naming stars and satellites. He briefly also served as the Master of the Royal Mint.

 13 Friedrich Bessel

Friedrich Bessel
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: July 22, 1784
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Minden, Germany
Died: March 17, 1846

Friedrich Bessel was a German mathematician, astronomer, geodesist, and physicist. He was the first astronomer to use the method of parallax in order to determine the distance of a star from the sun. Bessel was a much-respected figure during his time. He was honored with the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

 14 David Rittenhouse

David Rittenhouse
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: April 8, 1732
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paper Mill Run, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: June 26, 1796

American astronomer, inventor, mathematician, clockmaker and surveyor David Rittenhouse, who served as first director of the United States Mint and remained a  member of the American Philosophical Society, made several significant breakthroughs for the US. His achievements include discovering the atmosphere of Venus and observing its transit, becoming the first American to sight Uranus, and completing an advanced orrery.

 15 Ernst Chladni

Ernst Chladni
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Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer
Birthdate: November 30, 1756
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lutherstadt Wittenberg
Died: April 3, 1827

Ernst Chladni was a German musician and physicist. He is often referred to as the father of acoustics for his research on vibrating plates; he came up with a method to observe and study the various modes of vibration. Ernst Chladni is also considered the father of meteoritics for his significant contribution to the study of meteorites.

 16 David Brewster

David Brewster
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Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: December 11, 1781
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Jedburgh, Scotland
Died: February 10, 1868

David Brewster was a British scientist, inventor, and author. He conducted many experiments in physical optics, especially concerned with the study of the polarization of light. Fellow scientist William Whewell dubbed him the "father of modern experimental optics." He was also a pioneer in photography and invented an improved stereoscope. He wrote numerous works of popular science as well. 

 17 Guillaume Le Gentil

Guillaume Le Gentil
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: September 12, 1725
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Coutances, France
Died: October 22, 1792

Of French astronomer Guillaume Le Gentil’s discoveries, the most notable remain the Messier objects M32, M36, and M38. He waited for 8 years in India to observe the transit of Venus, but bad weather prevented his mission. He was mistakenly declared dead in France, but went back to reclaim his life.

 18 François Arago

François Arago
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Famous As: Astronomer, Mathematician, Physicist, Politician, Scientist, University teacher
Birthdate: February 26, 1786
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Estagel
Died: October 2, 1853

French physicist and mathematician François Arago discovered rotatory magnetism, named Arago's rotations. He is also remembered for his research on the wave theory of light and for the reforms he introduced as the French minister of war and the navy. The Eiffel Tower has his name inscribed on it.

 19 Roger Joseph Boscovich

Roger Joseph Boscovich
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Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: May 18, 1711
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Died: February 13, 1787

Italian astronomer and mathematician Roger Joseph Boscovich was one of the first European scientists to accept Newton’s gravitational theory. His contributions to astronomy include the application of geometry to compute the orbit of a planet and the equator of a rotating planet. He also laid the foundation of the atomic theory.

 20 Ole Rømer

Ole Rømer
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: September 25, 1644
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Aarhus, Denmark
Died: September 19, 1710

Ole Rømer was a Danish astronomer known for making the first quantitative measurements of the speed of light in 1676. Born into a wealthy family where his interest in mathematics and astronomy were encouraged, he went on to study at the University of Copenhagen. He had a high-profile career and was employed by the French government under King Louis XIV. 

 21 Charles Mason

Charles Mason
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Famous As: astronomer
Birthdate: March 31, 1728
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Oakridge
Died: October 25, 1786

 22 Joseph von Fraunhofer

Joseph von Fraunhofer
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Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer, Chemist
Birthdate: March 6, 1787
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Straubing
Died: June 7, 1826

Joseph von Fraunhofer was a Bavarian optical lens manufacturer and physicist. He is credited with developing diffraction grating and inventing the spectroscope. He is also credited with discovering the Fraunhofer lines, the dark absorption lines produced in the spectrum of the sun. The Fraunhofer Society, Europe's biggest Society for the Advancement of Applied Research, is named in his honor.

 23 Johann Heinrich Lambert

Johann Heinrich Lambert
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Famous As: Mathematician, Polymath
Birthdate: August 26, 1728
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mulhouse, France
Died: September 25, 1777

Johann Heinrich Lambert was a Swiss polymath whose contributions to the fields of physics, mathematics, map projections, astronomy, and philosophy are considered important by many scholars. He is credited with introducing hyperbolic functions into trigonometry. He is also credited with inventing a hygrometer, which is used to measure the quantity of water vapor in soil and air.

 24 Nathaniel Bowditch

Nathaniel Bowditch
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Famous As: Mathematician, Astronomer, Actuary, Physicist, Sailor
Birthdate: March 26, 1773
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Salem
Died: March 16, 1838

At 10, Nathaniel Bowditch was forced to quit studies due to poverty and started working, first at his father’s shop and then as a clerk in other shops. During his voyages in merchant ships, he discovered his love for math. He later redefined maritime navigation with his mathematical research.

 25 Nicolas Fatio de Duillier

Nicolas Fatio de Duillier
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Famous As: Astronomer, Mathematician
Birthdate: February 26, 1664
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: May 10, 1753

A close associate of Isaac Newton, Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, was, according to many, the reason for Newton’s nervous breakdown after they fell apart. He is best remembered for co-discovering the phenomenon of zodiacal light and for inventing the shadow theory of gravitation.

 26 Jeremiah Dixon

Jeremiah Dixon
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: July 27, 1733
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cockfield, County Durham, England
Died: January 22, 1779

 27 John Flamsteed

John Flamsteed
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Famous As: Astronomer and the first Astronomer Royal
Birthdate: August 19, 1646
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denby, Derbyshire, England
Died: December 31, 1719

 28 Pierre Louis Maupertuis

Pierre Louis Maupertuis
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: September 28, 1698
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Saint-Malo, France
Died: July 27, 1759

Pierre Louis Maupertuis was a French mathematician and man of letters. He is credited with having invented the principle of least action; his version is known as Maupertuis's principle. He was also a philosopher and his work in natural history touched upon a range of topics. He was the first President of the Prussian Academy of Science. 

 29 Jean Sylvain Bailly

Jean Sylvain Bailly
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: September 15, 1736
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 12, 1793

A major figure of the French Revolution, Jean Sylvain Bailly is remembered for leading the Tennis Court Oath. He also made a name for himself as an astronomer and studied the Halley’s Comet and the satellites of Jupiter extensively. As a mayor of Paris, he later defended Marie-Antoinette and was guillotined.

 30 Jean-Baptiste Biot

Jean-Baptiste Biot
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Famous As: Mathematician, Physicist, Astronomer, Civil engineer, Engineer, Professor
Birthdate: April 21, 1774
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris
Died: February 3, 1862

Jean-Baptiste Biot was a French physicist, mathematician, and astronomer. He was a co-discoverer of what became known as the Biot-Savart law of magnetostatics. He is also credited with establishing the reality of meteorites. He made major contributions to the fields of optics and magnetism as well. Cape Biot in eastern Greenland is named in his honor. 

 31 Giuseppe Piazzi

Giuseppe Piazzi
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Famous As: Astronomer, University teacher, Mathematician
Birthdate: July 16, 1746
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Ponte in Valtellina
Died: July 22, 1826

Italian Theatine priest, astronomer and mathematician Giuseppe Piazzi discovered and identified the first asteroid Ceres at Palermo Astronomical Observatory that he established in Palermo, Sicily. He first demonstrated the large proper motion of the binary star system 61 Cygni in the constellation Cygnus. He also supervised compilation of the Palermo Catalogue of stars and completion of the Capodimonte (Naples) Observatory.

 32 Antonio de Ulloa

Antonio de Ulloa
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Famous As: Astronomer, Explorer, Meteorologist
Birthdate: January 12, 1716
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Seville
Died: July 3, 1795

Spanish mariner Antonio de Ulloa was sent by the government to explore America and ended up being captured by the British while returning. His scientific zeal made him a Fellow of the Royal Society there. He is remembered for his metallurgical, astronomical, and geographical discoveries and treatises.

 33 Nevil Maskelyne

Nevil Maskelyne
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Birthdate: 0000 AD

 34 James Bradley

James Bradley
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: February 29, 1693
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sherborne, Gloucestershire, England
Died: July 13, 1762

 35 Thomas Brisbane

Thomas Brisbane
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Famous As: Officer
Birthdate: July 23, 1773
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Largs, Ayrshire, Scotland
Died: January 27, 1860

 36 Johann Bode

Johann Bode
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Birthdate: January 19, 1747
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hamburg
Died: November 23, 1826

Johann Bode was a German astronomer best remembered for popularizing the Titius–Bode law. He is also credited with determining the orbit of planet Uranus and also suggested the name Uranus. He also served as the director of the Berlin Observatory.

 37 Johann Euler

Johann Euler
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Famous As: Astronomer, Mathematician
Birthdate: November 27, 1734
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: September 17, 1800

 38 Alexis Clairaut

Alexis Clairaut
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: May 13, 1713
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 17, 1765

Born to a math teacher, French mathematician and physicist Alexis Clairaut had mastered calculus at 10. He is best remembered for devising the Clairaut’s equation and for validating the scientific claims of Sir Isaac Newton. He was part of an expedition to Lapland to ascertain a degree of the meridian arc.

 39 Pieter van Musschenbroek

Pieter van Musschenbroek
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Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: March 14, 1692
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Leiden, Netherlands
Died: September 19, 1761

Dutch physicist and mathematician Pieter van Musschenbroek is remembered for introducing the principle of the Leyden jar. He also taught at several universities. Born to an instrument maker, he initially studied medicine but later also focused on philosophy. He made pioneering contributions to tribology.

 40 Maria Margaretha Kirch

Maria Margaretha Kirch
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: February 25, 1670
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany
Died: December 29, 1720

Born to a Lutheran minister, Maria Margaretha Kirch was educated at par with boys of her age, which wasn’t the norm back then. She later became the first woman astronomer to discover a comet. The German astronomer also received accolades such as the Gold Medal of the Royal Academy of Sciences.

 41 Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers

Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers
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Birthdate: October 11, 1758
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Germany
Died: March 2, 1840

Apart from being an astronomer, Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers was also a qualified physician. He converted a portion of his house into an observatory and spent a considerable part of his life attempting to discover a planet between Jupiter and Mars. He is best known for introducing his idea of Olbers' paradox.

 42 Joseph Nicollet

Joseph Nicollet
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Famous As: Geographer
Birthdate: July 24, 1786
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cluse, France
Died: September 11, 1843

French explorer and mathematician Joseph Nicollet had begun his career as a math teacher at age 19. Faced with financial issues, he later moved to the U.S., where he was financially helped by a wealthy family. His exploration of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers helped him chart maps of the region.

 43 John Hadley

John Hadley
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: April 16, 1682
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bloomsbury, London, England
Died: February 14, 1744

 44 Edward Sabine

Edward Sabine
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: October 14, 1788
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: June 26, 1883

Anglo-Irish astronomer Edward Sabine initially served the British Army and eventually retired as a major-general. The Copley Medal-winning scientist is remembered for his work on determining the shape and magnetic field of the Earth. He also studied birds in Greenland and was knighted for his achievements.

 45 Jérôme Lalande

Jérôme Lalande
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: July 11, 1732
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bourg-en-Bresse, France
Died: April 4, 1807

Jérôme Lalande was a French astronomer, freemason, and writer. His parents wanted him to study law, but he became a disciple of astronomer Joseph-Nicholas Delisle instead. He went on to have a brilliant career as an astronomer and was awarded the Lalande Prize by the French Academy of Sciences. His daughter Marie-Jeanne de Lalande also became an astronomer. 

 46 Alexis Bouvard

Alexis Bouvard
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: June 27, 1767
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Contamines, France
Died: June 7, 1843

Alexis Bouvard was a French astronomer, particularly noted for predicting the existence of an eighth planet in the solar system. Also known for discovering eight comets, he wrote Tables astronomiques of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus; but when his tables for Uranus failed, he correctly hypothesized that an unknown planet, later discovered as Neptune, is causing irregularity in its movement.

 47 Jacques Cassini

Jacques Cassini
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: February 18, 1677
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 16, 1756

Born to astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the director of the Paris Conservatory, Jacques Cassini, too, followed in his father’s footsteps. He opposed Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity and released the preliminary tables of the satellites of Saturn. He also helped measure the longitude line between Dunkerque and Perpignan.

 48 John Goodricke

John Goodricke
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Famous As: Amateur astronomer
Birthdate: September 17, 1764
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Groningen, Netherlands
Died: April 20, 1786

John Goodricke was an English astronomer best remembered for his observations of the Demon Star in 1782. The following year, he was honored with the prestigious Copley Medal for his work. In 1786, John Goodricke was made a member of the Royal Society.

 49 Francis Baily

Francis Baily
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: April 28, 1774
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Newbury, England
Died: August 30, 1844

 50 Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre

Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: September 19, 1749
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Amiens, France
Died: August 19, 1822

It is believed Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre had acquired his habit of reading from his fear of losing his eyesight. He later became a professor of astronomy and served Paris Observatory as its director. He also penned significant works such as Histoire de l'astronomie. His name remains engraved on the Eiffel Tower.