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 Urbain le Verrier

Urbain le Verrier

Birth
Saint-Lo, Departement de la Manche, Basse-Normandie, France
Death 23 Sep 1877 (aged 66)
Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Burial Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Memorial ID 7328 · View Source
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Mathematician, Astronomer. Born Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, son of Marie-Jeanne-Josephine de Baudre and Louis-Baptiste Le Verrier, an estate manager, in Saint-Lô, Manche, France. He attended the College in Saint-Lô, a talented student, he completed his studies at the age of sixteen. He then studied mathematics at the College Royal de Caen for three years, but failed the entrance examination to the École Polytechnique in 1830, attending instead the Mayer Institute in Paris. In 1831, a second attempt placed him second in the nation-wide Concours général examination, and he was admitted to the École Polytechnique. After completion of his studies, he spent 1833 to 1835 studying industrial chemistry at Orsay in Paris. His interest at this time was the tobacco industry. In 1836, he was appointed as a teacher at the Collège Stanislas in Paris, before being granted a position in astronomy at the École Polytechnique in 1837. His subsequent work on a study of periodic comets showed that certain comets, previously thought to be distinct objects, were the same object forced into a different orbit by the gravitational attraction of Jupiter. He was elected to he Academy of Sciences on the strength of this work. Further work in the study of the motion of Mercury resulted in extensive and greatly improved tables detailing the planet's motion. He made a subsequent study of the motion of Uranus, which varied from the expected. With mathematical calculations, he predicted the presence of another planet beyond Uranus. In September 1846, he wrote to astronomer Johann Galle at the Berlin Observatory and asked him to look for a body at the position he predicted. After a brief search, the planet was discovered within one degree of the position that had been computed. One of his colleagues commented, “... he discovered a [planet] with the tip of his pen, without any instruments other than the strength of his calculations...” Independently and concurrently, however, English astronomer John Couch Adams came up with similar calculations. As a consequence, Le Verrier and Adams now share the honor of being Neptune's discoverers. He was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society in London and became an officer in the Legion of Honor. In 1847 a chair of celestial mechanics was created for him at the Sorbonne. In 1854, he became director of the Observatory of Paris, where sought to improve its state by insisting upon military type discipline. The staff despised him, and, for the most part, resigned. Eventually, his unpopularity led to him being removed from the post in 1870, but upon the death of his successor in 1873, he was reinstated, but with restricted authority. He spent much of the remainder of his career looking at the whole planetary system; he built new tables for the planets and theories for their orbits. He published numerous papers detailing them. He succumbed to liver disease at the age of 66, and was interred in a grave marked by a large celestial globe. An asteroid, a ring of Neptune, and a lunar crater have been named for him.

Bio by: Iola


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 28 Nov 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 7328
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Urbain le Verrier (11 Mar 1811–23 Sep 1877), Find A Grave Memorial no. 7328, citing Cimetière de Montparnasse, Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France ; Maintained by Find A Grave .