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Lowell, Percival

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Definition: Lowell, Percival from

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

, Percival 1855–1916.


American astronomer. He founded the Lowell Observatory in Arizona (1894), where his studies of Mars led him to believe that the planet was inhabited.


Percival Lowell photographed by J.E. Purdy (1858–1933) Library of Congress LOC

Summary Article: Lowell, Percival (1855-1916) from The Hutchinson Dictionary of Scientific Biography
US astronomer and mathematician, the founder of an important observatory in the USA, whose main field of research was the planets of the Solar System. Responsible for the popularization in his time of the theory of intelligent life on Mars, he also predicted the existence of a planet beyond Neptune, which was later discovered and named Pluto. Lowell was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 13 March 1855. His interest in astronomy began to develop during his early school years. In 1876 he graduated from Harvard University, where he had concentrated on mathematics, and then travelled for a year before entering his father's cotton business. Six years later, Lowell left the business and went to Japan. He spent most of the next ten years travelling around the Far East, partly for pleasure, partly to serve business interests, but also holding a number of minor diplomatic posts. Lowell returned to the USA in 1893 and soon afterwards decided to concentrate on astronomy. He set up an observatory...    Continue Reading
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