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.
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.
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.
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.
Born to a businessman and diplomat father in Bulgaria, Fritz Zwicky was initially sent to Switzerland to study commerce but ended up deviating to math and physics. He then moved to the U.S. to work with Caltech and gained fame for his research on what he called the supernova.
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.
American scientist Harlow Shapley is best-remembered for ascertaining correct position of Sun within Milky Way Galaxy and for heading the Harvard College Observatory. He determined the size and shape of the Milky Way Galaxy and the Sun’s position within it using the Cepheid variable stars and wrote the Liquid Water Belt that provided scientific acceptance to Hubertus Strughold’s ecosphere theory.
Son of a Dublin solicitor, Sir William Rowan Hamilton was raised and educated by his priest uncle from age 3. Initially a master of languages such as Latin, Greek, and Persian, Hamilton began deviating to math at 16. He is remembered for his contribution to optics, Hamiltonian mechanics, and algebra.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
21 Ernst Abbe
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.
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.
25 Mary Ward
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.
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.
A pioneer in astronomical spectroscopy, Italian Jesuit priest and astronomer Angelo Secchi was among the first scientists who authoritatively stated that the Sun is a star. Notable contributions of Secchi, who served as director of the observatory at the Roman College for nearly three decades, includes discovering three comets and solar spicules; and inventing Secchi disk, heliospectrograph and telespectroscope.
Though mostly self-taught, William Ferrel grew up to be a school teacher and later joined the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. He was later part of the U.S. Army’s Signal Service and is best remembered for his meteorological research and his explanation of the deflection of air currents on Earth.
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.
38 Henry Draper
A practicing physician, Henry Draper later taught at the New York University medical school. However, he later devoted all his time to his passion, astronomy, photographing celestial bodies and following in his doctor and amateur astronomer father’s footsteps. He was the first to photograph a stellar spectrum and a nebula.
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.
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.
Born to a goldsmith, Peter Andreas Hansen had initially learned the art of watchmaking. However, his skills as an astronomer eventually earned him the post of the director of the Seeberg Observatory near Gotha. His best-known works are related to optics, probability theory, and the motion of the Moon.
Italian astronomer, microscopist and botanist Giovanni Battista Amici is best-remembered for effecting significant improvements in mirrors of reflecting telescopes and development of microscope. His subjects of studies included the satellites of Jupiter and double stars in astronomy and infusoria and fructification of plants in biology. He invented dipleidoscope and direct vision prism and was the first to discover pollen tubes.
Benjamin Apthorp Gould was a child prodigy who wrote Latin poems at age 5. He grew up to excel in mathematics and astronomy and graduated from Harvard. Apart from discovering the Gould belt, he also founded the Astronomical Journal. His book Uranometria Argentina earned him a Royal Astronomical Society gold medal.
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.
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.
50 Wilhelm Beer
Apart from being an astronomer, Wilhelm Beer was also a banker and the brother of legendary composer Giacomo Meyerbeer. His Mappa Selenographica, was the first lunar map that was classified into quadrants. Along with Johann Heinrich Mädler, he also created the first globe for Mars.