Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Challis, James

  • William Sheehan
Reference work entry

BornBraintree, Essex, England, 12 December 1804

DiedCambridge, England, 3 December 1882

James Challis was a Cambridge University astronomer best known for his failure to discover Neptune in the summer of 1846. Educated at Cambridge, where he was a senior wrangler, Challis was elected a fellow of Trinity College in 1826. He became a protégé of the strong-willed and domineering  George Airy, after Airy became director of the Cambridge University Observatory in 1828. In 1830, Challis was ordained and also assumed the position he was to hold until the end of his life, Plumian Professor of Astronomy. He married the following year. On Airy’s appointment as Astronomer Royal in 1836, Challis succeeded to the observatory directorship.

By all accounts, Challis was an honest, hard-working man who seems to have aspired to nothing more than to doing his duty. While this bank clerk’s mentality served him well in some ways, it would tell against him when he had his greatest opportunity to discover...

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Selected References

  1. Eggen, Olin J. (1973). “Challis, James.” In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulson Gillispie. Vol. 3, pp. 186–187. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Google Scholar
  2. Smith, Robert W. (1989). “The Cambridge Network in Action: The Discovery of Neptune.” Isis 80: 395–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lowell ObservatoryFlagstaffUSA