Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 343-346


Burnham, Sherburne Wesley

BornThetford, Vermont, USA, 12 December 1838

DiedChicago, Illinois, USA, 11 March 1921

Burnham, Sherburne Wesley. Reproduced by permission of the Mary Lea Shane Archives of the Lick Observatory, University of California at Santa Cruz

Sherburne Burnham, the leading discoverer, observer, and cataloger of double stars in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was the son of Roswell O. and Marinda (née Foote) Burnham. Educated only in the local district school and the Thetford Academy, Burnham received no formal postsecondary education. For most of his life, Burnham was an amateur astronomer in the sense that he did not earn his living by his astronomical work. After completing his schooling, he acquired knowledge of shorthand and was employed by a stenographic recording firm in New York City. That employment apparently involved a trip to Europe, for while in London in 1861, Burnham acquired his first telescope, a 3-in. refractor on a simple tripod.

During the US Civil War, Burnham ...

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