Famous 19th Century Astronomers

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Astronomers, including Carl Friedrich Gauss, Georges Lemaître, Edwin Hubble, Pierre-Simon Laplace and Joseph-Louis Lagrange.

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 Edwin Powell Hubble

Edwin Powell Hubble
5
Famous As: Astronomer & Mathematician
Birthdate: November 20, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marshfield, Missouri, USA
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 William Herschel

William Herschel
6
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. 

 3 Pierre-Simon Laplace

Pierre-Simon Laplace
6
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.

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 4 Arthur Eddington

Arthur Eddington
123
Famous As: Astronomer
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

Annie Jump Cannon
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Famous As: Astronomer
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

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.

 7 Georges Lemaître

Georges Lemaître
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Famous As: Scientist & Priest
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.

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 8 Mary Somerville

Mary Somerville
5
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.

 9 Henrietta Swan Leavitt

Henrietta Swan Leavitt
4
Famous As: Astronomer
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.

 10 James Glaisher

James Glaisher
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Famous As: Meteorologists
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.

 11 Friedrich Bessel

Friedrich Bessel
3
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.

 12 Karl Schwarzschild

Karl Schwarzschild
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Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer, Astrophysicist, University teacher, Mathematician
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.

 13 Williamina Fleming

Williamina Fleming
3
Famous As: Astronomer
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.

 14 Matthew Fontaine Maury

Matthew Fontaine Maury
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Famous As: Astronomer
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.

 15 Percival Lowell

Percival Lowell
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Famous As: Astronomer, Mathematician
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 Johann Gottfried Galle

Johann Gottfried Galle
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Famous As: Astronomer, University teacher
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.

 17 Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell
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Famous As: Astronomer
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.

 18 George Ellery Hale

George Ellery Hale
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Famous As: Astronomer, Journalist
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. 

 

 19 Milutin Milanković

Milutin Milanković
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: May 28, 1879
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dalj, Croatia
Died: December 12, 1958

 20 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.

 21 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.

 22 August Ferdinand Möbius

August Ferdinand Möbius
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Birthdate: 0000 AD
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.

 23 Urbain Le Verrier

Urbain Le Verrier
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Famous As: Astronomer
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.

 24 Ernst Abbe

Ernst Abbe
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Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer, University teacher
Birthdate: January 23, 1840
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Eisenach
Died: January 14, 1905

 25 Giovanni Schiaparelli

Giovanni Schiaparelli
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Famous As: Astronomer
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.

 26 Nathaniel Bowditch

Nathaniel Bowditch
3
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.

 27 Simon Newcomb

Simon Newcomb
3
Famous As: Astronomer, Mathematician, Economist, Novelist, Writer, Teacher, University teacher, Science fiction writer
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.

 28 Milan Rastislav Štefánik

Milan Rastislav Štefánik
3
Famous As: Politician
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.  

 29 Camille Flammarion

Camille Flammarion
3
Famous As: Former Astronomer author who published the magazine L'Astronomie, starting in 1882
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.

 30 George Biddell Airy

George Biddell Airy
3
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: July 27, 1801
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Alnwick, 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 George Darwin

George Darwin
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Famous As: Barrister
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.

 32 Mary Ward

Mary Ward
3
Famous As: Naturalist
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 Antonie Pannekoek

Antonie Pannekoek
3
Famous As: Astronomer, Historian of science, Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: January 2, 1873
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vaassen
Died: April 28, 1960

 34 Vesto Slipher

Vesto Slipher
3
Famous As: Astronomer
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. 

 35 John Couch Adams

John Couch Adams
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Famous As: Mathematician, Astronomer, University teacher
Birthdate: June 5, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Laneast
Died: January 21, 1892

 36 Margaret Burbidge

Margaret Burbidge
3
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: August 12, 1919
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Davenport,England

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. 

 37 James Jeans

James Jeans
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 11, 1877
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, 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. 

 38 Jean-Baptiste Biot

Jean-Baptiste Biot
2
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. 

 39 William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse

William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse
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Famous As: Astronomer, Politician
Birthdate: June 17, 1800
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: York
Died: October 31, 1867

 40 Hippolyte Fizeau

Hippolyte Fizeau
2
Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer
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 Willem de Sitter

Willem de Sitter
2
Famous As: Mathematician
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. 

 42 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

 43 James Nasmyth

James Nasmyth
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Famous As: Astronomer, Engineer
Birthdate: August 19, 1808
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh
Died: May 7, 1890

 44 Samuel Pierpont Langley

Samuel Pierpont Langley
2
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: August 22, 1834
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Roxbury, Massachusetts, U.S.
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.

 45 Harold Jeffreys

Harold Jeffreys
2
Famous As: Mathematical statistician
Birthdate: April 22, 1891
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Fatfield, Washington, England
Died: March 18, 1989

 46 Norman Lockyer

Norman Lockyer
2
Famous As: Astronomer
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.

 47 Richard Christopher Carrington

Richard Christopher Carrington
2
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: May 26, 1826
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chelsea, London, United Kingdom
Died: November 27, 1875

 48 Otto Schmidt

Otto Schmidt
2
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: September 30, 1891
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mahilyow, Belarus
Died: September 7, 1956

 49 Otto Struve

Otto Struve
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Famous As: Astronomer
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.

 50 Edward Charles Pickering

Edward Charles Pickering
2
Famous As: Astronomer
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.