The Discoverers of the NGC / IC Objects
(work in progress)
This (incomplete) listing and discussion of the discoverers of the NGC/IC objects will at some point be supplemented by a history of the tremendous efforts required to create the catalogs. Primary reference for the list is Wolfgang Steinicke's tabulation of NGC/IC Observers
(for a fascinating and very thorough discussion of the history and contents of the NGC, and of the hundred or so astronomers who discovered its nebulae, refer to Wolfgang Steinicke's
book on the subject). In general, the link for a person's name is to Dr. Steinicke's tabulation, while the link for their year of death is to an obituary, usually in an astronomical journal. Additional links, if provided, are to other historical discussions. Little effort is being made to complete this list in a timely manner. As objects are added to the NGC/IC pages, if the discoverer of an object is mentioned, their name will be linked to an entry on this page. All discoverers of NGC/IC objects will eventually be shown here, but I am more interested in completing the catalog entries than this page. Those needing a more immediate reference should visit Dr. Steinicke's site. In particular, it should be noted that his site (and his book) contains photos of most of the discoverers and of the equipment they used, and where photos are shown on this site, they are used with his permission.
(Alphabetical index to be added here)
The discoverers are listed in order of their birth dates, or when those are identical, in order of their death dates, to group them according to their place in history (at a later date, this will be used to divide the listing into eras). For a few observers, birth and death dates do not seem to be available, so the years of their astronomical activity are used to place them in the timeline.
Aristoteles (384 - 322 B.C.E.), Greek philosopher and astronomer.
Aratos (315 - 245 B.C.E.), Greek astronomer.
Hipparchus (190 - 125 B.C.E.), Greek astronomer.
Claudius Ptolemaeus, or Ptolemy (87 - 165), Greek astronomer. (No known images exist from his lifetime; the one at left is a product of a Baroque artist's imagination.)
Abd-al-Rahman Al-Sufi (903 - 986), Persian astronomer.
Amerigo Vespucci (1451 - 1512), Italian explorer, navigator and cartographer. He was the first to describe the so-called Magellanic Clouds, about twenty years prior to their "discovery" by Magellan.
Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580 - 1637), French astronomer.
Giovanni Battista Hodierna (1597 - 1660), Italian astronomer. One of the few SEDS pages not "lost" in their website reorganization deals with his life and accomplishments. Hodierna was the first to observe a number of now famous nebulae, but the 1654 publication of his work was little noticed outside Sicily, and despite a brief mention of his work by Lalande in an 1803 publication, remained essentially unknown until its rediscovery in the 1980's. As a result, neither Messier, the Herschels, or Dreyer were aware of Hodierna's discoveries, and he is not mentioned in their publications.
Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625 - 1712), Italian astronomer.
Johann Abraham Ihle (1627 - 1699?), German amateur astronomer, who was the first to discover a globular cluster (now known as M22), although the actual nature of the object was not known until much later. Ihle was a friend of Hevelius and Gottfried Kirch, with whom he maintained a frequent correspondence about their observations.
Gottfried Kirch (1639 - 1710), German astronomer.
John Flamsteed (1646 - 1719), British astronomer.
Edmond Halley (1656 - 1742), British astronomer.
Jean-Jacques d'Ortous de Mairan (1678 - 1771), French astronomer.
John Bevis (1695 - 1771), British astronomer.
Jean-Dominique Maraldi (1709 - 1788), French-Italian astronomer. Giovanni Domenico Maraldi was born in Perinaldo, Italy, but spent his entire career in France (1727 - 1772), before retiring to the town of his birth. Maraldi was the nephew of French-Italian astronomer Jacques Philippe Maraldi (also born in Perinaldo), who was the nephew of Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini (also born in Perinaldo, which is proud of its illustrious sons).
Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille (1713 - 1762), French astronomer and Abbé.
Jean Philippe Loys de Cheseaux (1718 - 1751), Swiss astronomer.
Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix (1718 - 1802), French astronomer.
Guillaume Joseph Hyacinthe Jean-Baptiste Le Gentil de la Galaisière (1725 - 1792), French astronomer. Famous for his unfortunate experiences trying to observe the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769.
Charles-Joseph Messier (1730 - 1817), French astronomer.
Friedrich Wilhelm (William) Herschel (1738 - 1822), British astronomer.
Pierre Francois Andre Méchain (1744 - 1804), French astronomer. Méchain was a (younger) colleague and close friend of Messier, and was the actual discoverer of many of the later additions to Messier's catalog. Like Messier, he was an avid comet hunter, and found nearly a dozen comets on his own, or as a co-discoverer, with others.
Johann Gottfried Koehler (1745 - 1801), German astronomer.
Johann Elert Bode (1747 - 1826), German astronomer.
Karoline (Caroline) Lucretia Herschel (1750 - 1848), German-British astronomer.
Barnaba Oriani (1752 - 1832), Italian astronomer.
Edward Pigott (1753 - 1825), Italian astronomer.
Karl Ludwig Harding (1765 - 1834), German astronomer.
Francis Baily (1774 - 1844), British astronomer.
Niccolò Cacciatore (1780 - 1841), Italian astronomer.
John Frederick William Herschel (1792 - 1871), British astronomer.
James Dunlop (1793 - 1848), Scottish astronomer. Dunlop was not trained as an astronomer, but took an early interest in the field, and by a lucky chance was hired as an assistant by Sir Thomas Brisbane. When Brisbane was appointed governor of New South Wales, Dunlop accompanied his employer to Australia, and upon completion of Brisbane's Paramatta (now Parramatta) observatory, became second assistant; and when the first assistant abandoned the position, succeeded him. Dunlop was an assiduous observer of stars and double stars, and (mostly on his own initiative) nebulae; and being the first astronomer to regularly observe the southern hemisphere sky, discovered many objects. Unfortunately, his lack of training made his calculations of the objects' positions almost useless, and many of his discoveries are either "lost", or when more or less confidently identifiable, as properly credited to John Herschel, who tried to observe all of Dunlop's objects during his southern hemisphere expeditions.
Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve (1793 - 1864), Russian astronomer of German and Estonian origin, and father of Otto Struve.
Edward Joshua Cooper (1798 - 1863), Irish astronomer. A recent discussion of Cooper's life and the only extant photograph of him can be viewed here. (Note: Any use of the original image (and any commerical use of any portion of the image) may require the permission of the copyright holder.)
William Lassell (1799 - 1880), British astronomer.
William Parsons (1800 - 1867), 3rd Earl of Rosse, British astronomer. References to the fact that most of the NGC/IC objects attributed to Lord Rosse were actually found by his assistants may give the erroneous impression that the 3rd Earl was not an important observer. However, aside from having discovered the best part of a hundred nebulae himself, he left a legacy unsurpassed for the best part of a century -- a 6-foot aperture reflecting telescope (the "Leviathan" of Birr Castle), the construction of which would have been an impossible task for the best professional telescope makers of the day. Through tremendous effort, intelligence and inspiration, Parsons succeeded in creating a mirror and telescope many times larger than any in existence, so well constructed that it was as easy to use as it was large, making his and his assistants' observations uniquely successful. Even more importantly, instead of guarding the secret of how he managed the feat, he published a detailed discussion of the methods involved in the Leviathan's construction, providing an invaluable aid to astronomers everywhere. As stated in his obituary (linked above), "It may justly be urged that the maker (of an instrument) is above (its user). Eyes are common to us all, all could make discoveries if they had the means. It was the means that the Earl of Rosse supplied."
Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters (1813 - 1890), German-American astronomer.
Joseph Baxendell (1815 - 1887), British astronomer.
Kaspar Gottfried Schweizer (1816 - 1873), Russian astronomer.
Father Pietro Angelo Secchi (1818 - 1878), Italian astronomer, Ignatius church, in Rome.
Theodor Johann Christian Ambders Brorsen (1819 - 1895), Danish astronomer.
Otto Wilhelm von Struve (1819 - 1905), Ukrainian-Russian-American astronomer.
Lewis Swift (1820 - 1913), American astronomer.
Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel (1821 - 1889).
Heinrich Louis d'Arrest (1822 - 1875), German astronomer.
(Reverend) William Hautenville Rambaut (1822 - 1911), Irish astronomer. An assistant (1848) to Lawrence Parsons, he did not actually discover any nebulae, but did produce chalk drawings of some of the objects discovered at Birr Observatory (none of which were published during his lifetime). He also worked at Armagh observatory for many years.
Jean Chacornac (1823 - 1873), French astronomer. Note: An Internet search for images of Chacornac leads to non-English-language Wikipedia pages for him; but the image shown on those pages is not of Chacornac, but Camille Flammarion.
Per Magnus Herman Schultz (1823 - 1890), Swedish astronomer.
John Russell Hind (1823 - 1895), British astronomer.
George Phillips Bond (1825 - 1865), American astronomer.
Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt (1825 - 1884), German astronomer.
George Johnstone Stoney (1826 - 1911), Irish astronomer and mathematical physicist. Worked at Birr Castle under William Parsons from 1848 - 1852, and per Dreyer, the actual discoverer of many objects announced by his employer. Brother of Bindon Stoney.
Joseph Winlock (Feb 6, 1826 - Jun 11, 1875), American astronomer, and onetime director of the Harvard Observatory. Father of Anna Winlock, the first female computer hired by Harvard, after her father's untimely death left his family destitute.
Etienne Leopold Trouvelot (1827 - 1895), French-American astronomer.
Eduard Schönfeld (1828 - 1891), German astronomer.
Albert Marth (1828 - 1897), German astronomer (but worked in England and Ireland). Discovered 600 IC objects.
Auguste Voigt (Jan 18, 1828 - Mar 12, 1909), French astronomer.
Basilius (Vasily Pavlovich) von Engelhardt (1828 - 1915), Russian-German astronomer.
Isaac Roberts (1829 - 1904), British astronomer.
Asaph Hall (1829 - 1907), American astronomer.
Bindon Blood Stoney (1829 - 1909), Irish engineer. Worked at Birr Castle, assisting William Parsons with the mechanical construction of his telescopes, from 1850 - 1852, and per Dreyer, the actual discoverer of some objects announced by his employer. Brother of George Stoney.
Phillip Sidney Coolidge (Aug 22, 1830 - Sep 19, 1863), American astronomical observer. A great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson through his daughter Martha, and her daughter Ellen Wayles Randolph, Coolidge was the only white descendant of Jefferson to fight for the Union in the Civil War. A major in the Union Army, he was one of four thousand men killed at Chickamauga, for which service he was awarded the brevet (honorary, and usually posthumous) rank of lieutenant-colonel. All of Coolidge's NGC objects proved to be stars, without any nebulosity. This was presumably due to the difficulty of distinguishing faint stars from equally faint, nearly stellar nebulosities, and the efforts of observers of the day (and today, for that matter) to exceed the limits of their instruments. Still, although his colleagues also made erroneous observations, Coolidge has the dubious distinction of being the least successful "discoverer" of nebulous NGC/IC objects (a sad footnote to an otherwise commendable career, though not as sad as its being cut so short).
Carl Christian Bruhns (1830 - 1881), German astronomer.
George Friedrich Wilhelm Rümker (1832 - 1900), German astronomer. (His father, also a German astronomer, was the official astronomer at the Paramatta observatory in New South Wales prior to a dispute with his employer which led to James Dunlop becoming the de facto director. Those who read about the Australian observatory should take care not to confuse father and son.)
Gaspare Stanislao Ferrari (1834 - 1903), Italian astronomer.
Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834 - 1906), American astronomer.
Charles Augustus Young (Dec 15, 1834 - Jan 1, 1908), American astronomer.
Friedrich August Theodor Winnecke (1835 - 1897), German astronomer.
R. J. Mitchell (active 1850's), Irish astronomer. An assistant to William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, from 1852 - 1855. According to Parsons, "An eminently cautious and painstaking observer", and per Dreyer, the actual discoverer of many objects announced by his employer.
Truman Henry Safford (1836 - 1901), American astronomer and mathematical prodigy.
George "Jupiter" Washington Hough (1836 - 1909), American astronomer.
Ralph Copeland (1837 - 1905), British astronomer.
Horace Parnell Tuttle (1837 - August, 1923), American astronomer.
Jean Marie Édouard Stephan (1837 - 1923), French astronomer.
Georg Friedrich Julius Arthur von Auwers (1838 - 1915), German astronomer.
Sherburne Wesley Burnham (1838 - 1921), American astronomer.
Nils Christoffer Dunér (1839 - 1914), Swedish astronomer.
George Mary Searle (June 27, 1839 - July 17, 1918), American astronomer and clergyman. Searle was born in London, but his family moved to America sometime thereafter, and he graduated from Harvard in 1857. He became an assistant at the Dudley Observatory, where he discovered the asteroid (55) Pandora (Sep 11, 1858). He later entered the U.S. coast survey, and was appointed an assistant professor at the U. S. Naval Academy in 1862. He returned to Harvard (as an assistant asronomer) in June 1866, remaining there until March 1868. During his time there he discovered six nebulae: NGC 548, 565, 570, 4058, 4247 and 5487. After leaving Harvard Searle joined the Paulist Order, and continued to write many articles in scientific journals, but his most popular publication (reprinted numerous times) was an attempt to reconcile scientific and Catholic religious principles, for which he was criticized by scientists (who felt that an open mind was required to find and accept new truths) and by those whom Searle called Bible Christians, who treated the Scriptures as the only true source of knowledge, and felt that any effort to reconcile faith and science was the work of the devil. In 1916 Searle retired to the Apostolic Mission House in Washington, where he died two years later, at the age of 79. His obituary was published in Nature (volume 101, page 430, 1918), but is not available online, which is why this entry (primarily based on Wolfgang Steinicke's website) is relatively thorough.
Samuel Hunter (active 1860's), Irish artist. An assistant to William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, from 1860 - 1864. Apparently primarily assigned to produce drawings of nebulae observed with the Earl's 72" telescope (the Leviathan). According to Lord Rosse, he was an accomplished artist, and is best known for a famous drawing he did of the Orion Nebula. (Given that, you would think it easy to find a copy of the drawing; but as of this writing, I have been unable to do so.)
Lawrence Parsons (1840 - 1908), 4th Earl of Rosse, British astronomer.
Robert Stawell Ball (1840 - 1913), Irish astronomer.
Charles Sanders Peirce (1840 - 1914), American mathematician and philosopher.
Andrew Ainslie Common (1841 - 1903), British astronomer.
Alphonse Louis Nicholas Borrelly (1842 - 1926), French astronomer.
Edward P. Austin (1843 - 1906), American astronomer.
John Macon Thome (1843 - 1908), American-Argentinian astronomer.
Carl Frederick Pechüle (Jun 8, 1843 - May 28, 1914), Danish astronomer. (The following is based on the (German) Astronomische Nachrichten obituary of 1914, and the discussion in Steinicke's book.) Frederick Pechüle was born in Copenhagen. His father, Christian, was a needlemaker. His early studies were at home, and at the Collegium Propaganda in Rome. After graduating (in 1865), he became a student at the Copenhagen Observatory under the supervision of Heinrich d'Arrest. While there he began the observations of asteroids and comets which remained the center of his interest for the rest of his life. He discovered three comets (in 1877, 1880 and 1886), and made countless observations of asteroids over the course of a nearly fifty year long career. From 1870 to '72 he was an assistant to George Rümker at the Hamburg Observatory; his work there concentrated on observations of nebulae and star clusters. Pechüle received his M.A. from Copenhagen University in 1873. The following year he took part in an expedition to Mauritius to observe the 1874 transit of Venus; he was also a member of the Danish expedition which observed the 1882 transit of Venus from St. Croix, in the West Indies. He was permanently employed at the Copenhagen Observatory from 1875 on, succeeding Hans Schjellerup as assistant in 1885. Among other duties he served as timekeeper for the Observatory, and was responsible for the calculations for the Danish astronomical almanac from that time until his death, after a long illness, just shy of his 71st birthday.
Edward Singleton Holden (1846 - 1914), American astronomer.
Aaron Nichols Skinner (1845 - 1918), American astronomer. He was born in Boston, MA 10 August 1845. He married 9 Feb 1874 Sarah Elizabeth Gibbs of Framingham, MA. They had two children, Melville Gibbs and Helen Augusta Skinner. He was educated at Boston Latin School, at Beloit (Wisconsin) College and the University of Chicago, where (between 1866 and 1868) he was an assistant of Truman Safford at the Dearborn Observatory. In 1870 he became assistant astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory, and in 1898 was appointed professor of mathematics at the observatory. He retired in 1907 with the rank of Commander. He died in Framingham, Mass. 14 Aug 1918.
Edward Charles Pickering (1846 - 1919), American astronomer.
Ormond Stone (1847 - 1933), American astronomer and mathematician.
Paul-Pierre Henry (1848 - 1905), French astronomer.
Johann Palisa (1848 - 1925), Austrian astronomer.
Mark Walrod Harrington (1848 - 1926), American astronomer.
William Frederick Denning (1848 - 1931), British astronomer.
Mathieu-Prosper Henry (1849 - 1903), French astronomer. He and his brother, Paul-Pierre Henry, were the co-discoverers of the Maia Nebula (in the Pleiades).
Jérôme Eugène Coggia (1849 - 1919), French astronomer.
William Henry Finlay (1849 - 1924), British astronomer.
Carl Ernst Albrecht Hartwig (1851 - 1923), German astronomer.
Pietro Paolo Giovanni Ernesto Baracchi (1851 - 1926), Italian astronomer.
Guillaume Bigourdan (1851 - 1932), French astronomer.
J. Gerhard Lohse (1851 - 1941), German/British astronomer.
Johann (John) Louis Emil Dreyer (1852 - 1926), Danish-Irish astronomer.
Johann (John) Martin Schaeberle (1853 - 1924), German-American astronomer.
David Peck Todd (1855 - 1939), American astronomer.
Solon Irving Bailey (1854 - 1931), American astronomer.
James Edward Keeler (1857 - 1900), American astronomer.
Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming (1857 - 1911), Scottish-American astronomer. Abandoned by her husband, she was reduced to working as a maid. Her employer, a professor of astronomy at Harvard, was so dissatisfied with the work of his assistants that he claimed "My maid could do a better job." And she did, becoming one of the most famous female astronomers of the 19th century, and an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Edward Emerson Barnard (1857 - 1923), American astronomer.
Samuel Oppenheim (1857 - 1928), Austrian astronomer. (Photo from Scientific Web, no original attribution provided; however, based on the appearance of its subject, it must have been taken in the 1800's, and is therefore almost certainly in the public domain.)
Julius Scheiner (Nov 25, 1858 - Dec 20, 1913), German astronomer.
Herbert Alonzo Howe (1858 - 1926), American astronomer. Howe is credited with discovering 60 IC objects, with the 20" refractor at Chamberlin Observatory, in Denver.
Francis Preserved Leavenworth (1858 - 1928), American astronomer.
Thomas Henry Espinall Compton Espin (1858 - 1934), British astronomer.
Herbert Couper Wilson (1858 - 1940), American astronomer.
Hermann Albert Kobold (1858 - 1942), German astronomer.
Rudolf Ferdinand Spitaler (1859 - 1946), Austrian astronomer.
Robert Thorburn Ayton Innes (Nov 11, 1861 - Mar 13, 1933), Scottish-South African astronomer.
Frank Muller (1862 - 1917), American astronomer. Credited with the discovery of nearly a hundred NGC / IC objects.
Paul Ewald Felix Hugo Clemens (1862 - 1936), German astronomer.
N. M. Parrish (? - ?), American astronomer. An observer (assistant?) at the Leander McCormick Observatory of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, from 1887 - 1890, when Ormond Stone was director of the observatory.
Maximilian (Max) Franz Josef Cornelius Wolf (1863 - 1932), German astronomer. Wolf was one of the first to fully realize the utility of astrophotography, and discovered 248 asteroids, and nearly 6 thousand nebulae, of which more than a thousand are IC objects. His name is most famously connected, however, with his measurements of the proper motions of more than 1500 faint stars, many of which, such as Wolf 359, are exceptionally close to the Sun (Wolf 359 being closer than any other known stars, save for Rigel Kentaurus and Barnard's Star).
Friedrich Bidschof (1864 - 1915), Austrian astronomer.
Stephane Javelle (1864 - 1918), French astronomer. Discovered over 1400 IC objects, more than any other observer, using the 30" refractor at the Nice Observatory.
Robert Grant Aitken (1864 - 1951), American astronomer.
Walter Frederick Gale (1865 - 1945), Australian astronomer.
Joseph Lunt (1866 - 1940), British-South African astronomer.
Vsevolod Viktorovich Stratonov (Apr 4, 1869 - Jul 6, 1938), Russian astronomer. After the Russian Revolution Stratonov became a political refugee. He was a professor of astronomy at Prague University when he committed suicide. His one IC discovery (IC 1990) was made at the Tashkent Observatory in Uzbekistan.
DeLisle Stewart (1870 - 1941), American astronomer.
Edwin Foster Coddington (1870 - 1950), American astronomer.
Friedrich Karl Arnold Schwassmann (1870 - 1964), German astronomer.
Edward Swift (1871 - 1945), American astronomer. Son of Lewis Swift and his second wife Caroline, Swift worked with his father on an occasional basis while between the ages of 13 and 20, discovering 46 nebulae and one comet.
Royal Harwood Frost (1879 - 1950), American astronomer. Frost worked as an astronomical assistant at Harvard College Observatory under Edward Pickering, but did his most productive astronomical work at the Arequipa observatory, in Peru. During the dozen years he did astronomical observations he discovered 454 IC objects, and an asteroid (505 Cava).
Adelaide Ames (1900 - June 26, 1932, American astronomer. Ames was not involved in the original discovery of NGC/IC objects, but is mentioned in a number of entries on this site as a result of her confirmation or refutation of discoveries by earlier Harvard observers. In her unfortunately short life she became a well-respected astronomer and research assistant, and was Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin's closest friend at Harvard. She was Harlow Shapley's assistant from 1924 to her death, the chief contributor of the data on which his theories were based (she discovered over 3000 galaxies in a hundred square degree region in Coma Berenices and Virgo), and the Shapley-Ames Catalog is named after her. (The source of the thumbnail image can be viewed here. Any commercial use of the original image may require the permission of the copyright holder.)