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Pons, Jean Louis (1761–1831)





Jean Louis Pons
French astronomer whose intimate knowledge of the night sky helped him to discover or co-discover 37 comets – still a record. At the age of 28 he became a porter and doorkeeper at the Marseille Observatory. Noting his interest in astronomy, the directors of the observatory gave him instruction, and he turned out to be good at practical observation. Pons was made assistant astronomer 1813 and assistant director 1818. In 1819 he became director of a new observatory at Lucca, in northern Italy, before moving to the Florence Observatory 1822. Pons would be better known if the comet with the shortest period of all, which he discovered, had been named after him. But, in fact, it is called Encke's Comet after Johann Encke who first calculated its orbit and predicted its return. Actually, Encke wanted the comet to be named after Pons, but glory was thrust upon him anyway.


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   • ASTRONOMERS AND ASTROPHYSICISTS