Maskelyne, Nevil(măs`kəlīn), 1732–1811, English astronomer. Maskelyne received his education at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. Appointed astronomer royal at the Royal Observatory in 1765, he held this post for 46 years. He introduced the determination of longitude by lunar distances into English navigation, calculated these distances annually, and had them and other pertinent observations published in the Nautical Almanac, the first of which was available in 1766. At Schiehallion, a mountain in Scotland, he devised a method of measuring the mean density of the earth by using a pendulum.
Born Oct. 6, 1732, in London; died Feb. 9, 1811, in Greenwich. English astronomer.
Maskelyne graduated from Cambridge University in 1754. Beginning in 1765 he was director of the Greenwich Observatory. Maskelyne conducted observations of stars, the sun, and the planets; he also studied the moon for the purpose of determining longitudes. He selected 36 bright stars, now called Maskelyne stars, in order to relate observations of the stars to observations of the sun and planets. In 1766 he founded the English astronomical yearbook Nautical Almanac. In 1774, Maskelyne attempted to determine the density of the earth.