Famous 18th Century Astronomers

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Find out more about the greatest 18th Century Astronomers, including Pierre-Simon Laplace, William Herschel, Benjamin Banneker, Edmond Halley and Patrick Wilson.
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 1 
Pierre-Simon Laplace
(French Mathematician and Astronomer Who was Best Known for His Investigations into the Stability of the Solar System)
Pierre-Simon Laplace
6
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.

 2 
William Herschel
(Astronomer Known for His Discovery of 'Uranus' and 'Infrared Radiation')
William Herschel
6
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. 

 3 
Caroline Herschel
(Astronomer)
Caroline Herschel
5
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
(Mathematician)
Joseph Louis Lagrange
5
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
(Mathematician known for Calculating the Orbit of a Comet & Was the Second Astronomer Royal in Britain)
Edmond Halley
6
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
(Astronomer and Mathematician)
Giovanni Domenico Cassini
5
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
(One of the Greatest Mathematicians of All Tim)
Carl F. Gauss
8
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.

 8 
Benjamin Banneker
(Compiler of Almanacs)
Benjamin Banneker
4
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
(Astronomer)
Charles Messier
6
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
(Mathematician, Linguist, Translator, Astronomer, Scientist)
Mary Somerville
5
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
(Astronomer, Physicist, Mathematician)
Anders Celsius
4
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 
David Rittenhouse
(American Astronomer, Inventor, Clockmaker and Mathematician)
David Rittenhouse
3
Birthdate: April 8, 1732
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia, 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.

 13 
Ernst Chladni
(Physicist, Astronomer)
Ernst Chladni
3
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.

 14 
David Brewster
(Scientist)
David Brewster
3
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. 

 15 
François Arago
(Astronomer, Mathematician, Physicist, Politician, Scientist, University teacher)
François Arago
3
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.

 16 
Guillaume Le Gentil
3
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.

 17 
Roger Joseph Boscovich
(Physicist, Astronomer, Philosopher and Founder of 'Brera Observatory')
Roger Joseph Boscovich
3
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.

 18 
Ole Rømer
(Astronomer)
Ole Rømer
6
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. 

 19 
Charles Mason
(astronomer)
Charles Mason
3
Birthdate: 1728
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Oakridge
Died: October 25, 1786
 20 
Joseph von Fraunhofer
(Physicist, Astronomer, Chemist)
Joseph von Fraunhofer
3
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.

 21 
Johann Heinrich Lambert
(Mathematician who Proved that π is Irrational)
Johann Heinrich Lambert
3
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.

 22 
Nathaniel Bowditch
(Mathematician, Astronomer, Actuary, Physicist, Sailor)
Nathaniel Bowditch
3
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.

 23 
Nicolas Fatio de Duillier
(Astronomer, Mathematician)
Nicolas Fatio de Duillier
3
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.

 24 
Jeremiah Dixon
(Astronomer)
Jeremiah Dixon
3
Birthdate: July 27, 1733
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cockfield, County Durham, England
Died: January 22, 1779
 25 
John Flamsteed
(Astronomer and the first Astronomer Royal)
John Flamsteed
3
Birthdate: August 19, 1646
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denby, Derbyshire, England
Died: December 31, 1719
 26 
Jean Sylvain Bailly
(French Astronomer, Mathematician and Former Mayor of Paris)
Jean Sylvain Bailly
3
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.

 27 
Giuseppe Piazzi
(Astronomer, University teacher, Mathematician)
Giuseppe Piazzi
3
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.

 28 
Antonio de Ulloa
(Astronomer, Explorer, Meteorologist)
Antonio de Ulloa
2
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.

Nevil Maskelyne
2
 30 
Thomas Brisbane
3
Birthdate: July 23, 1773
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Largs, Ayrshire, Scotland
Died: January 27, 1860
 31 
James Bradley
(Astronomer)
James Bradley
2
Birthdate: 1693
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sherborne, Gloucestershire, England
Died: July 13, 1762
Johann Bode
2
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.

 33 
Alexis Clairaut
(Mathematician)
Alexis Clairaut
2
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.

 34 
Jean-Baptiste Biot
(Mathematician, Physicist, Astronomer, Civil engineer, Engineer, Professor)
Jean-Baptiste Biot
2
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. 

 35 
Johann Euler
(Astronomer, Mathematician)
Johann Euler
2
Birthdate: November 27, 1734
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: September 17, 1800
 36 
Maria Margaretha Kirch
2
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.

Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers
2
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.

 38 
John Hadley
(Mathematician)
John Hadley
2
Birthdate: April 16, 1682
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bloomsbury, London, England
Died: February 14, 1744
 39 
Alexis Bouvard
(Astronomer)
Alexis Bouvard
2
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.

 40 
Jérôme Lalande
(Astronomer)
Jérôme Lalande
2
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. 

 41 
Francis Baily
(Astronomer)
Francis Baily
2
Birthdate: April 28, 1774
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Newbury, England
Died: August 30, 1844
 42 
John Goodricke
(Amateur astronomer)
John Goodricke
2
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.

 43 
Jacques Cassini
(Astronomer)
Jacques Cassini
2
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.

 44 
Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre
(French Mathematician and Astronomer Who Prepared Tables That Plot the Location of 'Uranus')
Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre
2
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.

César-François Cassini de Thury
1
Birthdate: June 17, 1714
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Thury-sous-Clermont, France
Died: September 4, 1784

French astronomer and surveyor César-François Cassini de Thury followed in his father Jacques Cassini’s footsteps to create an authentic topographical map of France. His Carte de Cassini was the first map which charted an entire country based on its topography. He had also been the director of the Paris Observatory.

 46 
Tobias Mayer
(Astronomer)
Tobias Mayer
1
Birthdate: February 17, 1723
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Died: February 20, 1762

Tobias Mayer is best remembered for his extensive research on the Moon and lunar tables, which revolutionized the study of longitude at sea. Born amid poverty, he taught himself math and began his career as a math teacher. He eventually chaired economy and math at the University of Göttingen.

 47 
Franz Xaver von Zach
1
Birthdate: June 4, 1754
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pest, Budapest, Hungary
Died: September 2, 1832
 48 
Dominique, comte de Cassini
1
Birthdate: June 30, 1748
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 18, 1845

The son of renowned French astronomer César-François Cassini de Thury, Dominique, comte de Cassini followed in his father’s footsteps to serve as the director of the Paris Observatory. He also completed the map of France that his father had begun. His monarchist ideals got him imprisoned by the revolutionary government.

 49 
William Cranch Bond
1
Birthdate: September 9, 1789
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Falmouth, Maine, United States
Died: January 29, 1859

Born to a clockmaker father, William Cranch Bond made his first clock at 15 and then took over his father’s William Bond Clock Shop. Watching a solar eclipse pushed him into astronomy, and he ended up discovering Hyperion, the eighth moon of Saturn. He was also the Harvard Observatory’s first director.

Friedrich Wilhelm Argelander
1
Birthdate: March 22, 1799
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Klaipėda, Lithuania
Died: February 17, 1875

Friedrich Wilhelm Argelander is best remembered for his research on variable stars. He served as the director of the Åbo Observatory in Finland and also released his legendary star catalogue Bonn Survey. He is also credited with establishing the Astronomical Society and won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.