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Percival Lowell
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Astronomer
    (March 13, 1855-November 12, 1916)
    Born in Boston, Massachusetts
    Brother of poet Amy Lowell
    Founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona (1894)
    Popularized the idea of Martian canals in the books 'Mars' (1895), 'Mars and Its Canals' (1906) and 'Mars As the Abode of Life' (1908)
    Proposed the existence of a 'Planet X' beyond Neptune
    Fourteen years after his death, astronomers at the Lowell Observatory discovered Pluto
    The canals of Mars do not exist.
    Although he was credited with predicting Pluto's existence, Pluto did not match the properties he had predicted for Planet X.
    A friend said that his failure to find Planet X 'virtually killed him.'
    Ironically, the year before his death, his observatory captured two faint images of Pluto without recognizing their significance.
    His widow challenged his will leaving his fortune to the Lowell Observatory, producing a decade-long legal battle.
    He was the first astronomer to locate an observatory at a remote, elevated location for optimal viewing conditions.
    His musings about the Martian canals inspired a lot of science fiction writers.
    Pluto got its name partly because its first two letters were Lowell's initials.
    The Lowell Observatory was named a National Historic Landmark (1965) and hosts 70,000 visitors a year.

Credit: C. Fishel


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