(February 4, 1906-January 17, 1997)
Born in Streator, Illinois
Discovered Pluto (February 18, 1930)
Also discovered nearly 800 asteroids
Astronomy professor at New Mexico State University (1955-73)
Why he might be annoying
He said about one of his UFO sightings, 'I have seen three green fireballs which were unusual in behavior from normal green fireballs.'
He suggested that a bright flash seen on Mars in 1941 was the result of an atomic blast.
He was fond of bad puns.
He sometimes reacted to the debate about Pluto's planetary status as if it were a personal affront.
Thanks to Pluto's demotion, he no longer qualifies as the discoverer of a planet. (And 'discoverer of the second-largest Kuiper Belt Object' just doesn't have the same cachet.)
Why he might not be annoying
At age 20, he built his own telescope after becoming dissatisfied with one from Sears.
His initial plans for attending college were frustrated when hail ruined the family's crops.
When he sent drawings of his observations of Mars and Jupiter to the Lowell Observatory for advice, they instead offered him a job searching for trans-Neptunian planets.
After his discovery of Pluto, he received a scholarship to attend the University of Kansas. (No word on whether he had to put anything on his application other than 'I just discovered a friggin' planet.')
When the Smithsonian asked for his handmade telescope following his retirement from New Mexico State,he replied 'They can't have it yet. I'm still using it.'
He was married to Patricia Edson for 62 years until his death.
An ounce of his ashes were carried on the New Horizons spacecraft, launched in 2006 (the centennial of his birth) with a planned flyby of Pluto in 2015.
Credit: C. Fishel
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