Jean-Charles Houzeau de Lehaie

  • Christiaan SterkenEmail author
  • Amy Abercrombie King
Part of the Springer Biographies book series (SPRINGERBIOGS)


This chapter gives an overview of the life and works of Jean-Charles Houzeau (1820–1888), an illustrious 19th-century Belgian scientist and journalist who journeyed on an emigrant sailing vessel to New Orleans in 1857. We focus on his qualities as a freelance journalist and reporter by means of the numerous letters that he sent to colleagues and publishers in the course of his four-year sojourn in Texas, and during his ten-month residence in Matamoros, Mexico. Houzeau’s writings imply a self-imposed ethical code in withholding names of victims, witnesses and sources of information. We also clarify some specific topics of his research, viz., the origin of the zodiacal light, the conundrum of non-returning comets, and the 1882 transit of Venus. We recognize in Houzeau a unique person, who was both a compiler and a researcher, a republican, a Belgian and a cosmopolitan. Along with von Humboldt and the British astronomer John Herschel,  Houzeau is to be counted as one of the last “generalists”. The story of Jean-Charles Houzeau’s multifaceted life, no doubt, would seem improbable if it were written as a work of fiction.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BrusselsMerelbekeBelgium
  2. 2.San AntonioUSA

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