Percival Lowell: The Founder of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona

Percival Lowell: The Founder of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona

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Percival Lowell was a well-known businessman, mathematician, author, and astronomer. He is the founder of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. He is also well known for popularizing the idea that Mars had life. His ideas had an immense impact on science fiction, as well as science itself. Not only that, Lowell’s search for “Planet-X” led to the discovery of Pluto.
On March 13, 1855, Percival Lowell was born in Cambridge, to a wealthy Bostonian family. His parents were Augustus Lowell, a president of cotton companies and director of banks, and Katherine Bigelow Lawrence, daughter of Abbott Lawrence, a textile manufacturer and founder of the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Percival Lowell was very well educated, having attended and graduated Noble and Greenough School in 1872, as well as Harvard University, graduating in 1876 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics. Interestingly, his graduation speech was about the formation of the solar system, which showed that, even then, he was interested in astronomy. He was later awarded honorary LL.D degrees from Amherst College in 1907 and Clark University in 1909. His brother, Abbot Lawrence Lowell, went on to become the president of Harvard, while his sister, Amy Lowell, helped introduce new poetry into America. He then took the customary grand tour of Europe, though he traveled farther than most--all the way to Syria. Once he completed college, Lowell worked in his family’s textile business for six years. A lecture concerning Japan in 1882 inspired Lowell to travel to the Far East. He served as a foreign secretary to the Korean Special Mission, part of the first Korean diplomatic mission, in 1883. He later wrote a number of books on the Far East. Books by Percival Lowel...


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...rst two letters of the name Pluto-was chosen as the planet’s astronomical symbol. Unfortunately, we learn later that Lowell’s Planet X theory is incorrect. In 1978, Pluto’s mass was found with the discovery of Charon, Pluto’s moon. Pluto, being a small planet, would have weak gravity. Therefore, this diminutive gravity could not affect the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. The International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet in 2006. It was also revealed later that the strange orbits of Uranus and Neptune were due to the erroneous value of Neptune’s mass.
In conclusion, not one of Percival Lowell’s theories was ever right. However, he left behind a legacy for future space pioneers, as well as being a symbol of hope. He has also left behind a legacy for the public, which has never seemed to have gotten rid of the notion that there is life on Mars.



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