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Abbe, Cleveland (03 December 1838–28 October 1916), meteorologist and astronomer, was born in New York City, the eldest of seven children of George Waldo Abbe, a merchant, and Charlotte Colgate. He was educated at the New York Free Academy, now City College of New York (part of CUNY), where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1857 and a master’s degree in 1860....

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Charles G. Abbot [left to right] Charles G. Abbot and Floyd Karker Richtmyer at the National Academy of Sciences meeting in Cleveland, OH, 1934. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114340).

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Abbot, Charles Greeley (31 May 1872–17 December 1973), astronomer, was born in Wilton, New Hampshire, the son of Harris Abbot and Caroline Ann Greeley, farmers. Abbott began the study of chemistry and physics at Phillips Andover Academy and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1894 with a thesis in chemical physics under the direction of ...

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Abell, George Ogden (01 March 1927–07 October 1983), astronomer and educator, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Theodore Curtis Abell, a Unitarian minister, and Annamarie Ogden. His marriage to Lois Everson in 1951, which produced two sons, ended in divorce in 1970; in 1972 he married Phyllis Fox....

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Adams, Walter Sydney (20 December 1876–11 May 1956), astronomer, was born in the Syrian village of Kessab, the son of Lucien Harper Adams and Nancy Dorrance Francis, missionaries. Upon the family’s return to Derry, New Hampshire, in 1885, Adams attended public and private schools, graduating in 1894 from Phillips Academy, Andover, intent upon pursuing astronomy as a career. He trained under ...

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Aitken, Robert Grant (31 December 1864–29 October 1951), astronomer and fourth director of Lick Observatory, was born in Jackson, California, the son of Robert Aitken, an immigrant from Scotland and owner and operator of a meat market, and Wilhelmina Depinau. Aitken did his undergraduate work at Williams College, originally planning to become a minister. There he became interested in astronomy, under the tutelage of ...

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Alexander, Stephen (01 September 1806–25 June 1883), astronomer, was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Alexander Alexander, a merchant and grist mill operator, and Maintchie (Maria) Connor. His father died when Stephen was only two, leaving a large estate in the form of property, which comfortably supported the boy, his sister, and his mother. By the time Alexander reached maturity, however, the estate had been largely squandered by its executors. He graduated from Union College in 1824, and from 1825 to 1830 he taught natural philosophy and mathematics at Yates Polytechny, a vocational school in Chittenango, New York. He had already demonstrated his interest in astronomy, and while at Yates made a variety of telescopic observations....

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Baade, Walter (24 March 1893–25 June 1960), observational astronomer, was born in Schröttinghausen, Westphalia, Germany, the son of Konrad Baade, a schoolteacher, and Charlotte Wulfhorst. Although he was christened Wilhelm Heinrich Walter, he never used his first two names. He was educated at the classical Gymnasium in Herford, where his family moved in 1903, and then at the University of Münster for one year. In 1913 he entered the University of Göttingen, where he studied astronomy....

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Bailey, Solon Irving (29 December 1854–05 June 1931), astronomer, was born in Lisbon, New Hampshire, the son of Israel Carlton Bailey and Jane Sutherland, farmers. Raised in Concord, New Hampshire, he attended the Tilton Academy in Tilton, New Hampshire, and then Boston University, from which he obtained an A.B. in 1881 and an A.M. three years later. In 1883 Bailey married Ruth E. Poulter, who assisted him voluntarily in much of his astronomical work; the couple had two children, one of whom died in infancy....

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Banneker, Benjamin (09 November 1731–19 October 1806), farmer and astronomer, was born near the Patapsco River in Baltimore County in what became the community of Oella, Maryland, the son of Robert, a freed slave, and Mary Banneky, a daughter of a freed slave named Bannka and Molly Welsh, a freed English indentured servant who had been transported to Maryland. Banneker was taught by his white grandmother to read and write from a Bible. He had no formal education other than a brief attendance at a Quaker one-room school during winter months. He was a voracious reader, informing himself in his spare time in literature, history, religion, and mathematics with whatever books he could borrow. From an early age he demonstrated a talent for mathematics and for creating and solving mathematical puzzles. With his three sisters he grew up on his father’s tobacco farm, and for the rest of his life Banneker continued to live in a log house built by his father....

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Barnard, Edward Emerson (16 December 1857–06 February 1923), astronomer, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Reuben Barnard and Elizabeth Jane Haywood. Barnard’s parents were very poor, and his father died three months before Edward was born. His mother, who brought him and his older brother Charles up alone, began teaching Edward to read from the Bible when he was very young. With no more than two months’ schooling, however, Barnard went to work full-time at the age of nine to support his mother and brother. His job, in a Nashville photographer’s studio, involved keeping a huge solar “camera” pointed at the sun, the light source for making enlarged prints. Barnard thus learned for himself the apparent daily motion of the sun and its changes through the year resulting from the earth’s orbital motion. He advanced to doing all kinds of photographic work in the studio and became an expert in photographic techniques. Barnard tried to study academic subjects on his own, but, as he lacked even the most basic resources, it was very difficult for him. At the age of eighteen he acquired from a boyhood friend a volume by the Reverend Thomas Dick, a writer of sermons and popular articles on astronomy, with “moral and religious reflections” on the wonders of the universe. This book started Barnard on his career in astronomy. An older friend made a two-inch telescope for him from a secondhand spyglass tube and a lens he bought, and with it Barnard began observing the phases of Venus, the four moons of Jupiter that Galileo had discovered, and the craters, mountains, and rills on the moon....

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Bartlett, William Holms Chambers (04 September 1804–11 February 1893), mathematician and astronomer, was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the son of very poor parents whose names are unknown. The family moved when Bartlett was young to Missouri, where he obtained his early education. While this was apparently meager, his natural abilities were noted, and at the age of seventeen, through the good offices of Senator ...

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Blake, Francis (25 December 1850–19 January 1913), scientist, inventor, and astronomer, was born in Needham, Massachusetts, the son of Francis Blake, a businessman and U.S. appraiser of Boston, and Caroline (maiden name unknown). Blake attended Brookline High School but left at age sixteen to take up a position as a draftsman in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Blake remained with the survey team for thirteen years. The Coast Survey at that time hired young people out of high school or college in order to nurture the character values of morality, discipline, and loyalty in their employees. On-the-job training by knowledgeable instructors provided young men such as Blake with the skills to conduct research projects using the latest modern scientific techniques....

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Bok, Bart Jan (28 April 1906–05 August 1983), astronomer, was born Bartholomeus Jan Bok in Hoorn, Holland, the son of Jan Bok, a soldier, and Gesina Annetta Van Der Lee. He grew up in Haarlem and The Hague and completed undergraduate studies in astronomy at the University of Leiden in 1927. He then entered graduate school at the University of Groningen, from which he received a Ph.D. in 1932. While at Leiden, he was inspired by the work of Harvard University astronomer ...

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Bond, George Phillips (20 May 1825–17 February 1865), astronomer, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the son of William Cranch Bond, a clockmaker and astronomer, and Selina Cranch. A member of Harvard’s class of 1845, Bond became assistant astronomer at the school’s observatory, where his father was director, upon graduation. Using the Harvard College Observatory’s 15-inch refracting telescope, Bond and his father worked so closely together that they usually made joint announcements of their discoveries. He assisted his father with observations of Saturn, that resulted in the discovery of the planet’s satellite Hyperion in 1848 and, two years later, of the planet’s crepe ring. Now officially known as Ring C, this ring was also discovered independently in England by W. R. Dawes whose friend W. Lassell named it the “crepe ring.” Bond’s monograph on Donati’s Comet of 1858 (published in 1862), which included exceptional drawings by Bond, earned him international recognition. The most prestigious award for this work came in 1865, when the Royal Astronomical Society awarded him its gold medal, the first to go to an American....

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Bond, William Cranch (09 September 1789–29 January 1859), clockmaker and astronomer, was born in Falmouth (now Portland), Maine, the son of Cornish immigrant William Bond, a silversmith and watchmaker, and Hannah Cranch. The elder Bond began a lumber business in Falmouth in 1786. Four years later, when a ship carrying the entire season’s cuttings went down and ruined the business, Bond moved his penniless family to Boston. In 1793 he set up a watch and jewelry business on Marlboro Street, which continued until 1977 as the firm of William Bond & Son....

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Boss, Lewis (26 October 1846–05 October 1912), astronomer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Samuel P. Boss and Lucinda Joslin. Boss received a boarding school preparatory education and earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1870. His college studies were classical in nature, but his preference for astronomy was evident from his frequent visits to the college observatory. There he became familiar with astronomical equipment and the mathematical methods used in the reduction of astronomical observations. He also developed surveying skills in his leisure hours at Dartmouth and conducted an extensive survey of the college grounds. In 1870 Boss moved to Washington, D.C., where he was employed in a clerical position in the Census Office and later as examiner of surveys at the Land Office. In 1871 he married Helen M. Hutchinson: they had four children....

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Bowditch, Nathaniel (26 March 1773–16 March 1838), astronomer and mathematician, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Habakkuk Bowditch, a shipmaster and cooper, and Mary Ingersoll. His family moved to Danvers, Massachusetts, while he was still an infant but returned to Salem when Bowditch was seven. Business reverses forced his family into poverty, and Bowditch’s formal education ended at age ten, when he entered his father’s cooperage shop. In 1785 he became an apprentice clerk in the ship-chandlery shop of Hodges and Ropes in Salem; five years later he moved to the shop of Samuel C. Ward. Between January 1795 and December 1803, Bowditch made five voyages on merchant ships, including four to the East Indies and one to Europe, serving on the last voyage as master and part owner. In March 1798, between voyages, he married Elizabeth Boardman, who died seven months later. He married Mary Ingersoll, a cousin, in 1800; they had eight children....

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Brattle, Thomas (20 June 1658–18 May 1713), astronomer and architect, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Brattle, a merchant, and Elizabeth Tyng. The oldest son in one of Boston’s wealthiest families, Thomas early devoted himself to mathematics and science. Harvard College, where he earned an A.B. in 1676, was in disarray because of war and bad leadership during his undergraduate years, so Brattle pursued higher education largely on his own. He wrote to Britain’s royal astronomer, John Flamsteed, in 1703 and 1705 that no one was able to teach him much mathematics at Harvard, and he had relied on whatever books were available. Young Brattle also worked with and learned from scientifically inclined locals, such as the printer-mathematician John Foster and Dr. William Avery....

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Bressani, Francesco Giuseppe (06 May 1612–09 September 1672), priest, Jesuit missionary, and astronomer, was born in Rome, Italy. His parents’ names are unknown, and very little is known about his early life. Bressani entered the Society of Jesus as a novice on 15 August 1626. Over the next few years he requested repeatedly to be sent to Canada as a missionary. After studying in Rome and later in Claremont, France, he became an accomplished teacher of philosophy, literature, mathematics, and astronomy. In 1642 Bressani got his wish and was sent to Quebec, the seat of the Jesuit mission in New France. Finally, on 27 April 1644, having become sufficiently fluent in Huron to undertake missionary duties, he set off for Sainte-Marie in the Huron country, near the present Midland, Ontario, accompanied by six Christian Hurons and a French boy. Three days later, just east of the mouth of the Richelieu River, the group was captured by twenty-seven Mohawk warriors. Thus began Father Bressani’s ordeal....