Famous 19th Century Astronomers

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Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Astronomers, including Carl Friedrich Gauss, Georges Lemaître, Edwin Hubble, Pierre-Simon Laplace and Joseph-Louis Lagrange.
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 1 
Edwin Powell Hubble
(American Astronomer Who is Regarded as the Leading Observational Cosmologist of the 20th Century)
Edwin Powell Hubble
5
Birthdate: November 20, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marshfield, Missouri, United States
Died: September 28, 1953

While the Hubble Telescope, named after Edwin Powell Hubble, reminds one of his contribution to astronomy, he failed to get a Nobel Prize, as back in his time, the Nobel Committee didn’t recognize astrophysics as a valid science. He is best remembered for his work on galaxies and extragalactic astronomy.

 2 
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.

 3 
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. 

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 4 
Arthur Eddington
(Astronomer)
Arthur Eddington
123
Birthdate: December 28, 1882
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kendal
Died: November 22, 1944

Arthur Eddington was an English physicist, astronomer, and mathematician. He wrote numerous articles that explained Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity to the English-speaking world. He began his career in academics and eventually shifted to astronomy, becoming the chief assistant to the Astronomer Royal at the Royal Greenwich Observatory. He was a recipient of the Henry Draper Medal. 

 5 
Annie Jump Cannon
(Astronomer)
Annie Jump Cannon
5
Birthdate: December 11, 1863
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dover
Died: April 13, 1941

After studying physics and astronomy at Wellesley College, Annie Jump Cannon traveled across Europe and focused on photography for a decade, before venturing to study astronomy again. At the Harvard Observatory, she made a considerable contribution to the classification of stellar bodies. She was almost deaf due to scarlet fever.

 6 
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.

 7 
Georges Lemaître
(Scientist & Priest)
Georges Lemaître
5
Birthdate: July 17, 1894
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Charleroi, Belgium
Died: June 20, 1966

Georges Lemaître was a mathematician, astronomer, and professor of physics. Lemaître was the first person to theorize that the expansion of the universe can be used to explain the recession of nearby galaxies. In 1927, Lemaître published the first estimation of the Hubble constant. He also came up with the Big Bang theory to explain the origin of the universe.

 8 
James Glaisher
(Meteorologists)
James Glaisher
4
Birthdate: April 7, 1809
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Rotherhithe, London, England
Died: February 7, 1903

Renowned meteorologist and aeronaut James Glaisher was a pioneer of balloon flights and had penned the iconic book Travels in the Air. He had also contributed to the formation of the Meteorological Society and the Aeronautical Society of Britain. The 2019 movie The Aeronauts depicts his exploits as a balloonist.

 9 
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.

 10 
Henrietta Swan Leavitt
4
Birthdate: July 4, 1868
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lancaster, Massachusetts
Died: December 12, 1921

Born to a church minister, Henrietta Swan Leavitt grew up to work as a “human computer” at the Harvard Observatory. The American astronomer gained fame for discovering the period-luminosity relation of Cepheid variables. However, her brilliant scientific career was halted by her death due to stomach cancer at 53.

 11 
John Herschel
(British Polymath Known for His Invention of 'Blueprint')
John Herschel
4
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.

 12 
Friedrich Bessel
(German Astronomer, Mathematician, Physicist, and Geodesist)
Friedrich Bessel
3
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.

 13 
Karl Schwarzschild
(Physicist, Astronomer, Astrophysicist, University teacher, Mathematician)
Karl Schwarzschild
3
Birthdate: October 9, 1873
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Frankfurt
Died: May 11, 1916

Karl Schwarzschild was a German astronomer and physicist. He is remembered for his contributions to the general theory of relativity; Schwarzschild came up with the first exact solution to the Albert Einstein field equations. He also contributed immensely to the theory of black holes.

 14 
Williamina Fleming
(Scottish Astronomer Famous for Her Discovery of the 'Horsehead Nebula')
Williamina Fleming
3
Birthdate: May 15, 1857
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland
Died: May 21, 1911

Born in Scotland, Williamina Fleming moved to the U.S. with her husband, where she began working as a housekeeper for Harvard Observatory director Edward C. Pickering. Pickering secured her a job at the observatory, and Fleming went on to establish a classification and cataloguing system for stars.

 15 
Percival Lowell
(Astronomer, Mathematician)
Percival Lowell
3
Birthdate: March 13, 1855
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Boston
Died: November 12, 1916

Born into the famous Brahmin Lowell family of Massachusetts, Percival Lowell studied at Harvard, where he excelled in math. He managed a cotton mill and also spent time in Asia as a diplomat. He is best remembered for initiating the discovery of Pluto and for studying the canals on Mars.

 16 
Matthew Fontaine Maury
(American Astronomer, Oceanographer, Meteorologist, Geologist and Naval Officer)
Matthew Fontaine Maury
3
Birthdate: January 14, 1806
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Spotsylvania County, Virginia, United States
Died: February 1, 1873

American astronomer, naval officer, oceanographer and author Matthew Fontaine Maury, who first served the United States Navy and then the Confederacy States Navy, made significant contributions in oceanography. His book Physical Geography of the Sea is counted among the first comprehensive books on oceanography. Navies and merchant marines across the world adopted his uniform system of recording oceanographic data.

 17 
Johann Gottfried Galle
(Astronomer, University teacher)
Johann Gottfried Galle
3
Birthdate: June 9, 1812
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Radis
Died: July 10, 1910

Johann Gottfried Galle was a German astronomer who worked at the Berlin Observatory. On 23 September 1846, he became the first person to view and recognize the planet Neptune. The discovery of Neptune is considered one of the most significant moments of 19th-century science and is widely regarded as a validation of celestial mechanics.

 18 
Maria Mitchell
(Astronomer)
Maria Mitchell
3
Birthdate: August 1, 1818
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Nantucket
Died: June 28, 1889
Maria Mitchell was motivated by her amateur astronomer father to venture into astronomy, and he taught her to operate several astronomical instruments. She later grew up to be America’s first professional female astronomer and is best remembered for discovering the comet 1847 VI, also known as Miss Mitchell's Comet.
 19 
George Ellery Hale
(Astronomer, Journalist)
George Ellery Hale
3
Birthdate: June 29, 1868
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: February 21, 1938

George Ellery Hale was an American solar astronomer. He discovered magnetic fields in sunspots, a discovery that gained him international fame. He played key roles in the planning or construction of several world-leading telescopes, including the 40-inch refracting telescope at Yerkes Observatory. He was a major figure in the foundation of the International Union for Cooperation in Solar Research. 

 

 20 
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.

 21 
Samuel Langley
(American Aviation Pioneer, Astronomer and Physicist Known for Inventing 'Bolometer')
Samuel Langley
2
Birthdate: August 22, 1834
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: February 27, 1906

Astrophysicist Samuel Pierpont Langley had worked as an engineer before he taught physics and astronomy at the Western University of Pennsylvania. He later took over as the director of the Allegheny Observatory. He is best remembered for his research on solar radiation and for inventing the bolometer.

 22 
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.

August Ferdinand Möbius
3
Birthplace: Pforta

August Ferdinand Möbius was a German theoretical astronomer and mathematician. He is best remembered for his discovery of the Möbius strip, the simplest non-orientable surface. He is also remembered for introducing the Barycentric coordinate system. Several mathematical concepts like the Möbius transformations and the Möbius plane are named in his honor.

 24 
Urbain Le Verrier
(French Astronomer and Mathematician Best Known for Predicting the Existence and Position of 'Neptune' Using Only Mathematics)
Urbain Le Verrier
4
Birthdate: March 11, 1811
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saint-Lô, France
Died: September 23, 1877

French astronomer Urbain Le Verrier revolutionized celestial mechanics by ascertaining the existence of Neptune by mathematical means. Apart from winning the Royal Society of London’s Copley Medal, he had also led the Observatory of Paris as its director. His name remains one of the 72 engraved on the Eiffel Tower.

 25 
Simon Newcomb
(Astronomer, Mathematician, Economist, Novelist, Writer, Teacher, University teacher, Science fiction writer)
Simon Newcomb
3
Birthdate: March 12, 1835
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Nova Scotia
Died: July 11, 1909

Initially a herbalist’s apprentice, Simon Newcomb later deviated to mathematics and astronomy. Born to a schoolteacher, he had loved math since age 5 but wasn’t formally educated. He later joined Harvard University, taught math at the US Navy, detected locations of celestial bodies, and wrote a science-fiction novel, too.

 26 
Giovanni Schiaparelli
(Italian Astronomer and Science Historian)
Giovanni Schiaparelli
3
Birthdate: March 14, 1835
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Savigliano, Italy
Died: July 4, 1910

Giovanni Schiaparelli made headlines when he discovered the canals of Mars, suggesting the existence of intelligent life forms on the planet. He also discovered the asteroid named Hesperia and was associated with the Brera Observatory in Milan for more than 40 years. He had also been a senator of Italy.

 27 
Ernst Abbe
(Physicist, Astronomer, University teacher)
Ernst Abbe
3
Birthdate: January 23, 1840
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Eisenach
Died: January 14, 1905
 28 
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.

 29 
Milan Rastislav Štefánik
(One of the Founding Fathers of Czechoslovakia)
Milan Rastislav Štefánik
3
Birthdate: July 21, 1880
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Košariská, Slovakia
Died: May 4, 1919

Milan Rastislav Štefánik was a Slovak politician, diplomat, aviator, and Freemason. He served as the minister of war for Czechoslovakia during World War I while simultaneously serving as a general in the French Army. He was a  leading member of the Czechoslovak National Council and contributed to the cause of Czechoslovakian sovereignty. He died in a plane crash in 1919.  

 30 
George Biddell Airy
(British Mathematician and Astronomer)
George Biddell Airy
3
Birthdate: July 27, 1801
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Alnwick, Northumberland, England
Died: January 2, 1892
English astronomer George Biddell Airy is best known for locating Greenwich as the prime meridian. He was ripped apart by critics for allegedly failing to help British astronomer John Couch Adams to discover Neptune. The Astronomer Royal was also the first to cure astigmatism by using cylindrical lenses.
 31 
Camille Flammarion
(Former Astronomer author who published the magazine L'Astronomie, starting in 1882)
Camille Flammarion
3
Birthdate: February 26, 1842
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Val-de-Meuse, France
Died: June 3, 1925

French astronomer Camille Flammarion began his career as a human computer at the Paris Observatory at 16. He believed intelligent beings from Mars had tried to communicate with people on Earth in the past. He also published L'Astronomie and penned sci-fi novels such as Omega: The Last Days of the World.

 32 
Mary Ward
(Naturalist)
Mary Ward
3
Birthdate: April 27, 1827
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ballylin, County Offaly, Ireland
Died: 1869 AD

English nun Mary Ward was one of the first to show how influential women could be in the Church. Her work led to the development of the Congregation of Jesus and Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Loreto Sisters. She traveled on foot all across Europe, establishing schools and was often criticized by traditionalists.

 33 
George Darwin
(British Barrister, Astronomer and the Second Son of Naturalist Charles Darwin)
George Darwin
4
Birthdate: July 9, 1845
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Down House, Downe, Kent, England
Died: December 7, 1912

Born to legendary biologist Charles Darwin, George Darwin initially studied law and became a barrister. However, his interest in science made him deviate to astronomy. He believed the Moon was one part of the Earth. He later also taught at Cambridge and was made a Fellow of The Royal Society.

 34 
Antonie Pannekoek
(Astronomer, Historian of science, Philosopher, University teacher)
Antonie Pannekoek
3
Birthdate: January 2, 1873
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vaassen
Died: April 28, 1960
 35 
Vesto Slipher
(Astronomer)
Vesto Slipher
3
Birthdate: November 11, 1875
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mulberry
Died: November 8, 1969

Vesto Slipher was an American astronomer who was the first to discover that distant galaxies are redshifted and also the first to relate these redshifts to velocity. He also performed the first measurements of radial velocities for galaxies. He completed his doctorate at Indiana University and spent his entire career at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. 

 36 
James Jeans
(British Physicist, Astronomer and Mathematician)
James Jeans
2
Birthdate: September 11, 1877
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ormskirk, Lancashire, England
Died: September 16, 1946

James Jeans was an English physicist, astronomer, and mathematician who made great contributions to the areas of quantum theory, the theory of radiation, and stellar evolution. Along with Arthur Eddington, Jeans is a founder of British cosmology. He spent his academic career at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Princeton University. He received the Royal Medal in 1919. 

 37 
John Couch Adams
(Mathematician, Astronomer, University teacher)
John Couch Adams
3
Birthdate: June 5, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Laneast
Died: January 21, 1892
 38 
Margaret Burbidge
(British-American Observational Astronomer and Astrophysicist Known for Her Contributions to the Theory of ‘Quasars')
Margaret Burbidge
3
Birthdate: August 12, 1919
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Davenport, Stockport, England
Died: April 5, 2020

Margaret Burbidge was a British-American observational astronomer and astrophysicist. She was the first author of the influential B2FH paper and one of the founders of stellar nucleosynthesis. She held several leadership and administrative posts and was well known for her work opposing discrimination against women in astronomy. In 1988, she was awarded the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. 

 39 
William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse
(Astronomer, Politician)
William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse
2
Birthdate: June 17, 1800
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: York
Died: October 31, 1867
 40 
Hippolyte Fizeau
(Physicist, Astronomer)
Hippolyte Fizeau
2
Birthdate: September 23, 1819
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris
Died: September 18, 1896

Physicist Hippolyte Fizeau is best remembered for conducting the Fizeau experiment, named after him, which measured the speed of light. His other achievements include his contribution to the discovery of the Doppler effect and his description of the capacitor to improve the efficiency of the induction coil.

 41 
Thomas Brisbane
3
Birthdate: July 23, 1773
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Largs, Ayrshire, Scotland
Died: January 27, 1860
 42 
Willem de Sitter
(Dutch Mathematician, Physicist, and Astronomer)
Willem de Sitter
2
Birthdate: May 6, 1872
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Sneek, Netherlands
Died: November 20, 1934

Willem de Sitter was a Dutch physicist, mathematician, and astronomer. A respected figure, Willem de Sitter served as the director of the famous Leiden Observatory from 1919 to 1934. He worked alongside Albert Einstein and made important discoveries in the field of physical cosmology. He was the recipient of the James Craig Watson Medal, Bruce Medal, and Prix Jules Janssen. 

 43 
James Nasmyth
(Astronomer, Engineer)
James Nasmyth
2
Birthdate: August 19, 1808
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh
Died: May 7, 1890
 44 
Norman Lockyer
(British Scientist and Astronomer Known for Discovering the Gas Helium and Was the Founder of the Journal 'Nature')
Norman Lockyer
2
Birthdate: May 17, 1836
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rugby, Warwickshire, England
Died: August 16, 1920

British astronomer Norman Lockyer is known for his discovery of the gas helium, along with French astronomer Pierre Janssen, though both worked independently. A talented author, too, he established the periodical Nature and remained associated with it till death. He was knighted for his achievements.

 45 
Harold Jeffreys
(Mathematical statistician)
Harold Jeffreys
2
Birthdate: April 22, 1891
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Fatfield, Washington, England
Died: March 18, 1989
 46 
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. 

Richard Christopher Carrington
2
Birthdate: May 26, 1826
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chelsea, London, United Kingdom
Died: November 27, 1875
 48 
Otto Schmidt
(Pioneering Soviet Scientist, Explorer, and Math Professor)
Otto Schmidt
2
Birthdate: September 30, 1891
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mahilyow, Belarus
Died: September 7, 1956

Soviet scientist, mathematician, and explorer Otto Schmidt taught math at the University of Moscow and was associated with the Arctic Institute as its director. He also led the administration of the Northern Sea Route and was part of the first non-stop voyage from Arkhangelsk in Russia to the Pacific Ocean.

 49 
Edward Charles Pickering
(American Astronomer and Physicist Known for Discovering the First 'Spectroscopic Binary Stars')
Edward Charles Pickering
2
Birthdate: July 19, 1846
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: February 3, 1919

Astronomer and physicist Edward Charles Pickering was the man behind the first physics lab in the U.S. during his tenure as an MIT professor. Apart from inventing the meridian photometer and releasing the first photometric catalog, Harvard Photometry, he had also served as the director of the Harvard College Observatory.

 50 
Otto Struve
(Astronomer)
Otto Struve
2
Birthdate: August 12, 1897
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kharkiv, Ukraine
Died: April 6, 1963

Born into the famous Russian astronomer Struve family, Otto Struve began his career in the USA as a staff member at Yerkes Observatory, investigating stellar spectroscopy. Later, he focused mainly on binary and variable stars, stellar rotation and interstellar matter. He established the presence of hydrogen in interstellar space, a discovery that played significant part in the development of radio astronomy.