Famous British Astronomers

Astronomy in Britain goes back to the prehistoric times. British astronomers were engaged in observation and theory since times immemorial and through their ground-breaking and revolutionary research made some outstanding discoveries about the world that was beyond human comprehension for a long time. It were the English who discovered and developed new methods, theories, established facts and measured astronomic distances. William Herschel was a British astronomer of the 18th century who discovered Uranus and its two brightest moos, Titania and Oberon. His sister Caroline Herschel became the first woman astronomer to discover a comet. In her life, she discovered numerous comets. Helium gas owes its existence to Englishman Sir Joseph Lockyer who discovered its presence in the solar spectrum. British astronomer Antony Hewish was awarded Nobel Prize for his research group that discovered the first pulsar. Other popular British astronomers include Arthur S. Eddington, Sir Fred Hoyle, E Margaret Burbridge, Sir Roger Penrose and so on. Their invaluable work on astronomy has helped us better understand the universe, our solar system, sun, moon and of course our planet earth. Check this segment to find out in detail about the life, profile and works of famous British astronomers.

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 Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking.
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Famous As: Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist
Birthdate: January 8, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oxford
Died: March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking was an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who despite being afflicted motor neurone disease that severely limited his physical abilities, was able to build a phenomenally successful career. He was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Hawking was ranked 25 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, in 2002.

 2 Edmond Halley

Edmond Halley.
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: November 8, 1656
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Haggerston, Shoreditch, 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.

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 3 Robert Hooke

Robert Hooke.
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 28, 1635
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Freshwater, Isle of Wight
Died: March 3, 1703

Scientist Robert Hooke, also called England's Leonardo, initially gained recognition as an architect, conducting surveys following the Great Fire of London. He also taught geometry and was part of the Royal Society. He assisted Robert Boyle and eventually developed his own microscope, thus becoming the first to visualize micro-organisms.

 4 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin.
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Famous As: Astronomer, University teacher
Birthdate: May 10, 1900
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Buckinghamshire
Died: December 7, 1979

After losing her father at 4, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was raised singlehandedly by her mother. The incredibly talented Cecilia studied at Cambridge but failed to secure a degree because of her gender. She later joined Harvard and opposing prevalent beliefs, proposed that stars were mainly made of hydrogen and helium. 

 5 Arthur Eddington

Arthur Eddington.
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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. 

 6 Sir Christopher Wren

Sir Christopher Wren.
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Famous As: Architect
Birthdate: October 20, 1632
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Knoyle
Died: February 25, 1723

Architect Sir Christopher Wren had built over 50 churches in London, the most popular of them being the St. Paul’s Cathedral. He was a major force behind the formation of the Royal Society and was also knighted for his achievements. He was also a member of the English Parliament.

 7 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.

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 8 Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Jocelyn Bell Burnell
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Famous As: Astronomer, Astrophysicist
Birthdate: July 15, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Belfast

Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland. As a postgraduate student, she discovered the first radio pulsars. She graduated from the University of Glasgow and pursued an academic career. In 2018, she received the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery of radio pulsars. She donated the three million dollars she received as prize money.  

 9 Fred Hoyle

Fred Hoyle
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: June 24, 1915
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bingley, England
Died: August 20, 2001

Fred Hoyle was an English astronomer known for his theory of stellar nucleosynthesis. He spent most of his career at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, serving as its director for six years. He was also an author of science fiction novels, short stories, and plays and appeared in a series of radio talks on astronomy for the BBC.  

 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 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.

 12 Williamina Fleming

Williamina Fleming
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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.

 13 William Gilbert

William Gilbert.
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Famous As: Astronomer, Physicist and Physician
Birthdate: May 24, 1544
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Colchester
Died: November 30, 1603

William Gilbert was a 16th-century English physician, physicist, astronomer, and natural philosopher. He earned his MD from Cambridge and practiced medicine in London. He was a much-respected figure and was made the president of the Royal College of Physicians. He served as Queen Elizabeth I's and King James VI and I’s personal physician. 

 14 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. 

 15 Charles Mason

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

 16 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

 17 Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland

Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland
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Famous As: Nobleman
Birthdate: April 27, 1564
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tynemouth Castle, Northumberland, England

 18 Antony Hewish

Antony Hewish.
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Famous As: Radio Astronomer
Birthdate: May 11, 1924
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Fowey, Cornwall, England

Radio astronomer and physicist Antony Hewish is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning research on pulsars. Apart from teaching at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, he has also served as an advisory council member for the Campaign for Science and Engineering. He also has six honorary degrees to his credit.       

 19 Venetia Phair

Venetia Phair
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Famous As: Amateur astronomer
Birthdate: July 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Oxford, England
Died: April 30, 2009

 20 George Biddell Airy

George Biddell Airy
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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.

 21 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

 22 John Flamsteed

John Flamsteed
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: August 19, 1646
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denby
Died: December 31, 1719

 23 Bernard Lovell

Bernard Lovell
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Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: August 31, 1913
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oldland Common, England
Died: August 6, 2012

Bernard Lovell was a British physicist and radio astronomer who served as the first director of Jodrell Bank Observatory, holding this position from 1945 to 1980. He studied at the University of Bristol and embarked on an academic career. During World War II, he worked for the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE). He was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1980. 

 24 Margaret Burbidge

Margaret Burbidge
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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. 

 25 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

 26 Martin Ryle

Martin Ryle.
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: September 27, 1918
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brighton
Died: October 14, 1984

Martin Ryle was an English radio astronomer famous for developing revolutionary radio telescope systems. Along with fellow radio astronomer Derek Vonberg, he published interferometric astronomical measurements at radio wavelengths. Ryle and Antony Hewish were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974 for their astronomical research. Ryle became more involved in social and political issues in his later years. 

 27 James Jeans

James Jeans
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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. 

 28 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

 29 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

 30 Jeremiah Horrocks

Jeremiah Horrocks
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Famous As: astronomer, mathematician
Birthdate: 1617 AD
Birthplace: Liverpool
Died: January 3, 1641

 31 Harold Jeffreys

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

 32 Colin Pillinger

Colin Pillinger
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Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: May 9, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kingswood, Bristol, England
Died: May 7, 2014

 33 Thomas Digges

Thomas Digges
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: 1546 AD
Birthplace: Wootton, Kent, England
Died: August 24, 1595

 34 Norman Lockyer

Norman Lockyer
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: May 17, 1836
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rugby, Warwickshire, England
Died: August 16, 1920

 35 Richard Christopher Carrington

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

 36 William Huggins

William Huggins
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: February 7, 1824
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cornhill, Middlesex, England
Died: May 12, 1910

 37 Edmund Gunter

Edmund Gunter
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: 1581 AD
Birthplace: Hertfordshire, England
Died: December 10, 1626

 38 William Lassell

William Lassell
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Famous As: Merchant ,Astronomer
Birthdate: June 18, 1799
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bolton
Died: October 5, 1880

 39 David C. Jewitt

David C. Jewitt
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: 1958 AD

 40 Sir William de Wiveleslie Abney

Sir William de Wiveleslie Abney
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: July 24, 1843
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Derby, England
Died: December 3, 1920

 41 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

 42 Frank Watson Dyson

Frank Watson Dyson
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: January 8, 1868
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Measham, Leicestershire, England
Died: May 25, 1939

 43 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

 44 Warren De la Rue

Warren De la Rue
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: January 15, 1815
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Guernsey, Guernsey
Died: April 19, 1889

 45 Byrhtferth

Byrhtferth
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Famous As: Priest
Birthdate: 0970 AD
Birthplace: Unknown
Died: 1020 AD

 46 Edward Bernard

Edward Bernard
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Famous As: astronomer
Birthdate: 1638 AD
Birthplace: Paulerspury, Northamptonshire
Died: January 12, 1697

 47 Ernest William Brown

Ernest William Brown
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: November 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hull, England
Died: July 22, 1938

 48 Brian G. Marsden

Brian G. Marsden
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: August 5, 1937
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cambridge, England
Died: November 18, 2010

 49 John Greaves

John Greaves
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Famous As: Mathematician, astronomer, and antiquary
Birthdate: 1602 AD
Birthplace: Colemore, United Kingdom
Died: October 8, 1652

 50 John Russell Hind

John Russell Hind
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: May 12, 1823
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nottingham
Died: December 23, 1895