Top 20+ Famous Astronomy Scientists That You Should Know

Top 20+ Famous Astronomy Scientists That You Should Know

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To celebrate scientists and scientific advancements, we have collected a list of the most famous astronomy scientists that will inspire us for the greater good.

The world of astronomy is filled with fascinating, complex theories and ideas. It’s also full of fascinating people who have devoted their lives to understanding the universe.

But how did we get here? Who were the astronomers who paved the way for us to understand what’s going on in space? 

In this article, we’ll explore some of the most famous astronomers of all time and their contributions to this field.

To ensure quality, we scoured credible sources to give you a list of the 28 most famous astronomy scientists.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Famous Astronomy Scientists

#28. Claudius Ptolemy (100 AD-170 AD): The Greek Polymath Who Thought The Earth Was At The Centre of Our Solar System

Credits: New Scientist; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: New Scientist

What makes Claudius Ptolemy famous?

Claudius Ptolemy was a Greek polymath who was born in Egypt. He’s best known for developing the geocentric model, which means that he believed Earth was at the center of our solar system.

His work made it possible for other scientists to correctly predict astronomical phenomena like eclipses, which were important back then.

Ptolemy also wrote an encyclopedia called the Almagest, which contained star catalogs and information about planetary motions. The work was so influential that it remained the standard astronomy text for over a 1000 years.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#27. Tycho Brahe (1546-1601): The Man Who Proposed That Celestial Bodies Orbit The Sun

Credits: The Famous People; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: The Famous People

What makes Tycho Brahe famous?

Tycho Brahe was a Danish astronomer who lived and worked in the late 1500s. He researched stellar and planetary positions. This led him to develop a new model of the universe.

Brahe’s observations were so detailed that they were said to have “astounded” his contemporaries. His data set included information about the positions of over a hundred stars and planets and their brightness.

Brahe condensed Copernicus’s and Ptolemy’s astronomical models into the Tychonic system—a model that includes both geocentrism and heliocentrism.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#26. Hipparchus (190 BC-120 BC): The Father of Astronomy

Credits: Wikipedia; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Hipparchus famous?

Hipparchus was one of the greatest scientists in ancient Greece. He is best known for his theories concerning the solar and lunar motions.

Hipparchus lived during a time when many scientific discoveries were being made, including those concerning mathematics, astronomy, and geography. 

He is considered to be one of the most influential figures in ancient astronomy because he developed methods for measuring solar motion accurately and precisely. 

Hipparchus also devised several methods for calculating distances between stars and planets on Earth’s surface using trigonometry. He could reliably predict eclipses and even discovered the precession of the equinoxes—the slow change in the direction of Earth’s axis over time.

But one of Hipparchus’ most remarkable achievements was likely his star catalog. This was an extensive list of stars visible to astronomers during that period. Hipparchus’s catalog would later be used by many scientists when creating their own lists of stars visible from around the globe.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

https://youtu.be/MfAaWL1jqlQ

#25. Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736-1813): The Man Who Contributed To The Study of Celestial Mechanics

Credits: The Famous People; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: The Famous People

What makes Joseph Louis Lagrange famous?

The best way to understand Joseph Louis Lagrange is to know what he did.

Lagrange was an Italian-born astronomer and mathematician who made major contributions to celestial mechanics. This is the branch of astronomy that deals with the motions of celestial bodies. 

He’s best known for providing the most detailed information on celestial mechanics after Isaac Newton’s work.

Lagrange focused on solving problems related to celestial mechanics. And he made a name for himself in this field.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#24. Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997): The Discoverer of Pluto

Credits: Lowell Observatory; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Lowell Observatory

What makes Clyde Tombaugh famous?

Clyde Tombaugh was an American astronomer best known for being the first to discover Pluto, a dwarf planet in our solar system. He also identified several other asteroids.

Tombaugh was born on February 4, 1906, in Streator, Illinois. He spent many years working as an amateur astronomer and was fascinated by astronomy from a young age. 

After a hailstorm destroyed his education plans, he went on to work at Lowell Observatory in Arizona. Here, he developed his skills as an observer and spent much of his time searching for comets and asteroids—a passion that would later lead him to discover Pluto.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#23. Harlow Shapley (1885-1972): The Man Who Contributed To Our Understanding of The Milky Way

Credits: Wikipedia; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Harlow Shapley famous?

The American scientist, Harlow Shapley, was a man who helped us understand where we are.

He made it his mission to calculate the distances to nearby stars and the size of our own galaxy. At the time, astronomers thought the Milky Way was much smaller than it actually was. They believed we were at the center of our universe (called “the Milky Way”).

Shapley used cepheid variable stars to estimate distances to nearby stars by measuring how much those stars moved from Earth’s perspective over time as Earth orbited around the Sun. Using this method, he determined that our solar system was not at the center of our galaxy.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#22. Michael E. Brown (1965-Present): The Man Who Killed Pluto

Credits: NASA; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: NASA

What makes Michael E. Brown famous?

Dr. Michael E. Brown is an American astronomer and professor best known for discovering many dwarf objects in our solar system. 

He also wrote the famous book How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, which recounts the controversial decision to downgrade Pluto’s status from planet to dwarf planet.

Dr. Brown also led the team that discovered the Kuiper Belt, a region of space beyond Neptune that contains thousands of dwarf planets like Pluto. He was also part of the team that found Sedna, another dwarf planet.

Dr. Brown has received many awards and honors throughout his career, including the Feynman Prize.

[Source: Famous Scientists]

#21. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979): African-American Female who Discovered The Composition of The Stars

Credits: CommonsWikipedia.org; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: CommonsWikipedia.org

What makes Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin famous?

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was a brilliant scientist who made considerable contributions to the field of astronomy. She was born in Buckinghamshire, England and died in Massachusetts, USA.

She was the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University’s Radcliffe College.

Her most notable accomplishment was discovering that stars were mainly composed of hydrogen and helium gas—a theory that other scientists confirmed. 

She also worked on solving problems related to stellar evolution and stellar structure. Payne-Gaposchkin’s research also helped establish that temperature could aid in the classification of stars.

What is the best Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin quote?

“There is nothing personal in the thunderclap of understanding. The lightning that releases it comes outside oneself.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, Brown University Department of Physics]

#20. Dr. Arthur B. Cuthbert Walker II (1936-2001): The Man Who Made it Possible to Get High-Resolution Pictures of the Sun

Sun’s Corona. Credits: Business Insider; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Sun’s Corona. Credits: Business Insider

 What makes Dr. Arthur B. Cuthbert Walker II famous?

Dr. Arthur B. Cuthbert Walker II, one of the greatest solar physicists of all time, is known for his work on telescopes and solar physics.

He was born in 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio, and later studied at the Case Institute of Technology, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics. Walker then went on to earn a doctorate from the University of Illinois.

During his time at Stanford University, he made several important discoveries about solar physics, including how to measure the corona—the outermost layer of our Sun. His multilayer telescope gave the world the first high-resolution pictures of the Sun.

[Source: Sky & Telescope]

#19. Beth A. Brown (1969-2008): The Lady Who Contributed To Our Understanding of Black Holes

Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Beth A. Brown famous?

Beth A. Brown was a NASA astrophysicist who helped explore the furthest reaches of our solar system and beyond. She was born in 1969 in Roanoke, Virginia, and graduated from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics.

She’s known for her work on understanding the universe, particularly elliptical galaxies and black holes. Beth A. Brown earned a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1998 and was the first black woman astronomer to do so.

[Source: APS]

#18. Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943-Present): The Lady Who Discovered Neutron Stars

Credits: New Scientist; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: New Scientist

What makes Jocelyn Bell Burnell famous?

Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an Irish astrophysicist born in 1943 in Lurgan. She studied at the University of Glasgow, earning a degree in Natural Philosophy in 1965. Then, Cornell went on to study at Cambridge, earning her Ph.D.

It turns out that during her postgraduate studies, Jocelyn Bell Burnell focused on studying pulsars—fast-spinning stars that emit radiation at regular intervals. She noticed a signal coming from one particular pulsar that didn’t fit with the rest of them, so she investigated it. 

Under the supervision of Antony Hewish, she found that this pulsar wasn’t from a star like any other they’d seen before—it was coming from a neutron star. 

And when they laid out their findings for publication, the Nobel Committee couldn’t figure out who deserved credit for the discovery. Hewish would eventually receive the Nobel Prize.

Jocelyn Burnell’s incredible career was featured in the BBC’s Beautiful Minds series.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#17. Nancy Grace Roman (1925-2018): Mother of Hubble

Credits: NASA; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: NASA

What makes Nancy Grace Roman famous?

Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman was a trailblazer in the world of space science. Nancy Grace Roman is an American astronomer who influenced stellar motions and classification. 

Roman was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 16, 1925. She received her bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1946 and her master’s degree from the University of Chicago.

Nancy Roman was also the first female executive at NASA. In her position, she helped develop the space astronomy program at NASA, contributing to the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope.

[Source: NASA Science]

#16. Edmond Halley (1656-1742): The Man Who Correctly Predicted That a Comet Would Reappear in 1758

Credits: Royal Museums Greenwich; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Royal Museums Greenwich

What makes Edmond Halley famous?

Edmond Halley was a British astronomer who lived from 1656–1742. He is famous for the astronomical research that led him to conclude that it was possible to calculate the distances between the Sun, Earth, and Venus. 

But Halley remains famous for his predictions. He believed that a comet would return in 1758. This comet returned—unfortunately, he didn’t live to see it. 

Edmond Halley is a man who revolutionized astronomy and changed the way we think about the universe by discovering that comets were often visible to us and could be used as a forecasting tool.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#15. Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941): The Girl Hero of The Stars

Credits: ThoughtCo; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: ThoughtCo

What makes Annie Jump Cannon famous?

In 1863, Annie Jump Cannon was born in Dover, Delaware. She would become one of the most influential astronomers in history.

Annie Jump Cannon is known for co-creating the Harvard Classification Scheme alongside Edward Pickering. This system was influential in stellar classification. The Harvard Classification Scheme classified stars based on their spectra and luminosity classes. 

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#14. Eugene Shoemaker (1928-1997): Founder of Astrogeology Who Was Buried in the Moon

Credits: How Stuff Works; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: How Stuff Works

What makes Eugene B. Shoemaker famous?

Eugene B. Shoemaker was an American geologist born in 1928 in Los Angeles. He studied at Caltech and Princeton University.

In 1994, Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter’s surface, causing a massive storm that would be visible from Earth for over a year. This comet got its name from the people who first discovered it—Eugene B. Shoemaker, David Levy, and Carolyn S. Shoemaker (Eugene’s wife).

Shoemaker also researched terrestrial craters—those formed by volcanoes or earthquakes. He died in a road accident when going to such craters in Australia.

As an honor to this great scientist, members of NASA’s Lunar Prospector mission carried his ashes to the moon.

[Source: USGS]

#13. Vera Rubin (1928-2016): The Astronomer Who Discovered The First Evidence of Dark Matter

Credits: Astronomy Magazine ; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Astronomy Magazine 

What makes Vera Rubin famous?

Vera Rubin was born in Philadelphia in 1928 and studied astronomy at Vassar College. She began her career as an instructor at Montgomery College. Rubin went on to be an assistant professor at Georgetown University.

Rubin would later become the first woman to use Palomar’s telescope. At that time, many didn’t think women belonged in astronomy—which is why Vera Rubin’s work was so important.

Her research focused on how galaxies rotate, which proved the presence of dark matter—and this discovery led to further research that has led us far beyond what would have been possible without her influence.

What is the best Vera Rubin quote?

“Worldwide, half of all brains are in women.”

[Source: American Museum]

#12. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630): God’s Mathematician Who Discovered The Secrets of The Universe 

Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica ; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica 

What makes Johannes Kepler famous?

Johannes Kepler, born in Germany, is one of the most famous astronomers of all time. His three laws of planetary motion (Kepler’s laws) are a cornerstone of modern astronomy. 

He was a religious man, as is evident in his writings. Kepler believed that God exists and that He created a perfect universe and that we cannot understand it without studying it. 

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#11. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543): One of The Scientists Who Challenged Prolemy’s View of the Solar System 

Credits: Space.com; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Space.com

What makes Nicolaus Copernicus famous?

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish polymath best known for his work on astronomy, which led to the Copernican revolution.

He proposed that the Sun is at the center of our solar system and not just one of many stars, as Ptolemy had thought. This caused a huge shift in thinking because it contradicted what everyone believed (that everything revolved around an Earth-centered model).

What is the best Nicolaus Copernicus quote?

“To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#10. Giovanni Cassini (1625-1712): The Astronomer Who Discovered Saturn’s Second-Largest Moon, Rhea

Credits: The Famous People; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: The Famous People

What makes Giovanni Cassini famous?

Giovanni Cassini is one of the most famous and essential astronomers in history. He was born in Perinaldo, Italy, in 1625.

Cassini became interested in studying Saturn when he noticed its rings were unusually clear for a planet with such a large moon. He began observing it from his home country of Italy and discovered four new moons orbiting around the planet. 

He also discovered that the division between Saturn’s rings was marked by an “annular” gap, which is only visible from Earth if you are looking at Saturn with a telescope.

Besides Cassini Division, laws, and identity, he is also known for working on a topographic map of France. This map would become known as Cassini’s map. They were so precise that they could be used to determine the heights of mountains and valleys.

[Source: Space.com]

#9. Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695): The Father of Modern Science

Credits: ThoughtCo; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: ThoughtCo

What makes Christian Huygens famous?

Christiaan Huygens is one of the most outstanding scientists in the world. He was a Dutchman who lived from 1629-1695 and made some groundbreaking astronomical and physical discoveries.

From there, Huygens would become an expert on Saturn’s moons, especially Titan—the largest moon in our Solar System. He used his telescope again to study Titan’s surface and make observations that helped scientists understand its composition better.

Huygens also made important contributions to mechanical clocks, which were not yet widely used at this point in history. His invention of pendulum clocks helped make all other sorts of clocks obsolete. 

These clocks worked on a similar principle as the swinging bridges. Instead of having weights on each end, they had weights suspended from wires that oscillated back and forth as they swung around their axis like a pendulum (hence “pendulum clock”).

What is the best Christiaan Huygens quote?

” I do not believe anything very certainly, but everything very probably.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#8. Charles Messier (1730-1817): Father of Comets

Credits: Wikipedia; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Charles Messier famous?

Charles Messier was a French astronomer who helped us understand objects in the sky by cataloging and categorizing them. He was born in 1730 in Badonviller, and he published his catalog of objects in 1774, called Messier Objects. 

What were these objects? They included star clusters and nebulae that lie far away from Earth.When you look at the night sky with your naked eye or binoculars, you can see these objects. But if you want to know more about them, or if you want to identify them on your own, then you need to know about Charles Messier.

[Source: Space.com]

#7. William Herschel (1738-1822): The Artist Who Discovered Uranus

Credits: Laki; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Laki

What makes William Herschel famous?

William Herschel was a man who loved the night sky.

He was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1738 but moved to Great Britain when he was still young. Herschel was known for being a pioneer in astronomy, especially in the field of spectrophotometry. 

His work with infrared radiation paved the way for further study of the Sun’s spectrum, which allowed scientists to figure out how hot it was and determine that it had a yellowish tint.

Herschel discovered Uranus and its moons—Oberon and Titania—which were previously unknown objects. He also discovered two moons of Saturn: Mimas and Enceladus. These discoveries were huge steps toward understanding our solar system as a whole.

Herschel’s work helped pave the way for future generations of astronomers, who would continue to study space through astronomical spectrophotometry.

What is the best William Herschel quote?

“Seeing is in some respect an art, which must be learnt.”

[Source: Space.com]

#6. John Herschel (1792-1871): Son of A Famous Astronomer Who Rose To Invent The Julian Day, A System For Counting Days

Famous Astronomy Scientists

What makes John Herschel famous?

John Herschel was the son of William Herschel, an astronomer who is most well-known for discovering Uranus. He was born on March 7, 1792, in Slough, England. 

John Herschel became one of the most influential scientists of his era and was a prolific inventor who contributed to several aspects of science.

His most significant contribution was identifying and naming eleven moons—seven for Saturn and four for Uranus—which was a breakthrough at the time. He also developed a system of counting days known as Julian day, which astronomers still use today to keep track of time.

What is the best John Herschel quote?

“Self-respect is the cornerstone of all virtue.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#5. Frank Drake (1930-present): The Man Who Dedicated His Career To Studying Alien Life

Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Frank Drake famous?

Frank Drake is a name that you’ve probably heard before. The American astrophysicist, who is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has made contributions to our understanding of the universe and its potential inhabitants, including SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence).

Born in Chicago in 1930, Drake studied at Cornell and Harvard universities. He is known for his work on Project Ozma, which attempted to detect communications in extraterrestrial environments. 

The Drake equation, which he developed, estimates how many civilizations are likely to exist in our galaxy.

What is the best Frank Drake quote?

” Only by doing the best we can with the very best that an era offers, do we find the way to do better in the future.”

[Source: National Radio Astronomy Observatory]

#4. Stephen Hawking (1942-2018): One of The Greatest Scientists of Our Time

Credits: Daily News Egypt; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Daily News Egypt

What makes Stephen Hawking famous?

Stephen Hawking was a man who made an indelible mark on the world. He was born in 1942 in England and is best known for his work in theoretical physics.

He contributed to the study of the universe by focusing on its origin and structure, which continues to appeal to millions worldwide.

In addition to being a brilliant scientist, Stephen Hawking was also an avid writer. His books continue to appeal to millions of readers globally.

What is the best Stephen Hawking quote?

” Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica ]

#3. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Father of Observational Astronomy Who Made The First Space Telescope

Credits: Vatican Observatory, Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Vatican Observatory

What makes Galileo Galilei famous?

This Italian polymath is one of the most famous scientists known for his contributions to the field of observational astronomy. He made significant discoveries regarding the nature of celestial bodies, including the phases of Venus, Saturn’s rings, and lunar craters. 

Galileo also discovered that the earth revolves around the sun—considered heresy at the time. As an engineer, he also developed a thermoscope and military compasses that were useful in any weather. These accomplishments earned him a place in history as one of the most influential scientists.

What is the best Galileo Galilei quote?

” All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#2. Edwin Hubble (1889-1953): The Man Who Found Our Place in The Cosmos

Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica

What makes Edwin Hubble famous?

Edwin Hubble was one of the most outstanding American astronomers of all time. He helped to pioneer observational cosmology and extragalactic astronomy. 

Hubble is also famous for proving that galaxies exist farther from the Milky Way than was previously known. His Hubble’s Law is the most widely accepted theory, explaining that we are in an expanding universe.

Edward Hubble’s ideas and discoveries changed how we looked at the universe and paved the way for establishing the space program. The famous Hubble Telescope is named after him.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

What is the best Edward Hubble quote?

“The search will continue. The urge is older than history. It is not satisfied and will not be suppressed.”

#1. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727): The Man Who Formulated The Laws of Motion

Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica; Famous Astronomy Scientists
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica

What makes Sir Isaac Newton famous?

Sir Isaac Newton was an English scientist and mathematician. He is best known for his contributions to astronomy, physics, and optics and his many other works that extended throughout the 18th century.

His contributions to astronomy were enormous. He suggested the earth is an oblate spheroid. His invention of the reflecting telescope helped study the solar system. 

Newton’s laws of motion were crucial in understanding how objects move on Earth. For these discoveries and more, Sir Isaac Newton is one of the scientists who founded modern physics, astronomy, and mathematics.

What is the best Sir Isaac Newton quote?

“What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

Final Thoughts

If it weren’t for these astronomers, we wouldn’t have a good idea of what the universe actually looks like. They made huge strides toward understanding how gravity works and how light travels.

As a bonus, we feel you should know about Friedrich von Struve, who pioneered research on double stars by publishing a catalog of binary stars. And Walter S. Adams, who discovered Sirius B, the first white dwarf star to be identified.

Did you love this short tour of the world’s most famous astronomers? 

Let us know in the comment section below.


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Joannah W.
Joannah has been a science publisher with close to 20 years of experience. She wants to help students and researchers stay ahead of the trends and developments in the science community by making science more accessible to everyone.

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