Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Pons, Jean-Louis

  • Robert D. McGown
Reference work entry

BornPeyre, (Hautes-Alpes), France, 24 December 1761

DiedFlorence, (Italy), 14 October 1831

Jean-Louis Pons was the world’s most successful visual discoverer of comets. Born into a poor family, Pons did not leave his mark on the astronomical community until 1801, when he logged his first discovery of a comet on 11 July. Pons’s discovery (c/1801 N1), which he shared with  Charles Messier, proved to be Messier’s last. During his lifetime, Pons discovered or codiscovered a total of 37 comets. Of these, 26 are credited to his name.

In 1789, Pons gained a post as concierge at the Observatory of Marseilles and received instruction on the telescope from the astronomers. He was a fast learner and soon was allowed to observe with all the instruments. His favorite telescope was one with a 3° field of view. (This suggests a magnification around 15×.) Pons was known to possess an extraordinary ability to remember the star fields he had observed and thus to recognize changes within them.

In 1813,...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Selected References

  1. Chapin, Seymour L. (1975). “Pons, Jean-Louis.” In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. Vol. 11, pp. 82–83. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Google Scholar
  2. Roemer, Elizabeth (1960). “Jean Louis Pons, Discoverer of Comets.” Astronomical Society of the Pacific Leaflet, no. 371.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PortlandUSA