BornClarkson, New York, USA, 29 February 1820
DiedMarathon, New York, USA, 5 January 1913
Lewis Swift discovered 13 comets and 1,248 previously uncataloged nebulae, which placed him after only William Herschel in the number of nebulae he discovered visually. His report of the hypothetical planet Vulcan was eventually discredited.
The son of Lewis and Ann (néeForbes) Swift, the younger Lewis was born into a distinguished family. His father was a general in the local militia, while his grandfather had served in the Revolutionary War in general Putnam’s personal guard. An earlier ancestor had emigrated from England to Massachusetts in 1630. Swift’s father farmed, and during the winter made farming implements; as a young man Swift also showed mechanical ingenuity. His life was changed when, at age 13, he fractured his hip during a farming accident and was unable to continue his work on the family farm. Instead – incapacitated for farm work – young Swift gained time for study. He trudged...
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