Astronomers have contributed greatly to our understanding of physics and motion. In this section you can learn all about famous astronomers and what each of them has contributed to our understanding of space.


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Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel

Bessel, Friedrich Wilhelm (1784-1846), a German astronomer, was the first to measure stellar parallax, an apparent change in a star's position as a result of the earth orbiting the sun.

Davidson, George

Davidson, George (1825-1911), a United States geographer and astronomer. He was born in Nottingham, England, and came to the United States in 1832.

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginia (1835-1910), was an Italian astronomer. He is best known for his studies of Mars, begun in 1877, in which he described in detail the Martian canals.

Shapley, Harlow

Shapley, Harlow (1885-1972), a United States astronomer. His studies of stars in globular clusters and of Cepheid variable stars led to a new understanding of the structure of the universe.

Helen Sawyer Hogg

Hogg, Helen Sawyer (1905-1993) was an American-born Canadian astronomer. She became known for her research on variable stars —stars whose light regularly varies in brightness because of their pulsating atmospheres.

Russell, Henry Norris

Russell, Henry Norris (1877-1957), a United States astronomer. About 1913 he and Ejnar Hertzsprung independently noted certain relationships between stars that resulted in the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, a method of classifying stars.

James Bradley

Bradley, James (1693-1762), an English astronomer, discovered the aberration of starlight that provided the first direct proof that the earth revolves around the sun, and the nutation, or nodding motion, of the earth's axis.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Bell Burnell, Jocelyn (1943-), a Northern Irish astronomer, discovered the first four pulsars, neutron stars that emit pulses of radiation with a high degree of regularity.

Adams, John Couch

Adams, John Couch (1819-1892), was a British astronomer and one of the discoverers of the planet Neptune.

Flamsteed, John

Flamsteed, John (16461719), an English astronomer. Flamsteed was appointed the first astronomer royal, in 1675, and Greenwich Observatory was built for him in 1676.

Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr.

Taylor, Joseph Hooton, Jr. (1941-) is an American astrophysicist and radio astronomer acclaimed for discovering the first binary pulsar, a system of two collapsed stars that emit tremendous energy as they rotate rapidly around one another.

Fraunhofer, Joseph von

Fraunhofer, Joseph von (1787-1826), a German optician and physicist. He was the first to make a careful study of the dark lines that appear in the solar spectrum, and these lines (and similar ones from other sources) were named in his honor.

Tsiolkovsky, Konstantin Eduardovich

Tsiolkovsky (or Ziolkovsky), Konstantin Eduardovich (1857-1935), a Russian rocket pioneer who is generally regarded as the father of space travel.

Maarten Schmidt

Schmidt, Maarten (1929-) is a Dutch astronomer. He identified the starlike objects now known as quasars.

Nasir al-Din Al-Tusi

Al-Tusi, Nasir al-Din (1201-1274) was one of the greatest scholars of his time and one of the most influential figures in Islamic intellectual history.

Copernicus, Nicolaus

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who was the first to publish a book setting forth evidence that the earth and the other planets revolve around the sun.

Roemer, Olaus

Roemer, Olaus (1644-1710), a Danish astronomer. He was the first to measure the speed of light, using eclipses of Jupiter's moons.

Struve, Otto

Struve (STROO veh), Otto (1897 - 1963) was a Kussian-born American astronomer who belonged to a family of distinguished scientists that included six astronomers over four generations, he being the last.

Lowell, Percival

Lowell, Percival (1855-1916), a United States astronomer. In 1894 he established the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona.

Richard Woolley

Woolley, Richard (1906-1986) was the United Kingdom's astronomer royal from 1956 to 1971.

Burnham, Sherburne Wesley

Burnham, Sherburne Wesley (1838-1921), a United States astronomer. His General Catalogue of Double Stars (1906) contains data on 13,665 double stars, more than a thousand of which he discovered.

Langley, Samuel Pierpont

Langley, Samuel Pierpont (1834-1906), a United States astronomer, physicist, and aviation pioneer.

Newcomb, Simon

Newcomb, Simon (1835-1909), a United States astronomer. He calculated the movements of the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Uranus, and Neptune more precisely than had been achieved previously.

Airy, Sir George Biddell

Airy, Sir George Biddell (1801-1892), a British astronomer. Airy was astronomer royal from 1835 to 1881.

Lockyer, Sir Joseph Norman

Lockyer, Sir Joseph Norman (1836-1920), an English astronomer. He was one of the first to study the sun and stars with a spectroscope.