Percival Lowell

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Related to Percival Lowell: Abbott Lawrence Lowell, Giovanni Schiaparelli

Lowell, Percival

Lowell, Percival, 1855–1916, American astronomer, b. Boston, grad. Harvard, 1876; brother of Abbott Lawrence Lowell and Amy Lowell. He visited Korea and Japan, where he acted as counselor and foreign secretary to the Korean Special Mission to the United States and wrote several books about East Asia. Becoming interested in astronomy, he established (1894) the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, Ariz., and devoted himself to making personal observations. It was his belief that Mars was inhabited and that the striations on the Martian surface were artificial waterways. He also contended that there was a planet beyond Neptune (seemingly confirmed in 1930 by the discovery of Pluto, but Pluto is now regarded as a dwarf planet). From 1902 he was nonresident professor of astronomy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among his many writings on astronomy are Mars and Its Canals (1906) and The Genesis of Planets (1916).


See biography by A. L. Lowell (1935).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lowell, Percival


Born Mar. 13, 1855, in Boston; died Nov. 12, 1916, in Flagstaff, Ariz. American astronomer. Investigator of the planet Mars.

Lowell graduated from Harvard University in 1876. In 1894 he constructed his own observatory near Flagstaff. As a result of many years of observation, he established the nature of the seasonal variations, including visibility, of the “canals” on the Martian surface, which had been discovered by G. Schiaparelli. In 1915, Lowell calculated the orbit of a planet that was subsequently discovered in 1930 and named Pluto. His principal works were printed in publications of the Lowell Observatory.


In Russian translation:
Mars i zhizn’ na nem. Odessa, 1912.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Lowell, Percival

(1855–1916) astronomer; born in Boston, Mass. (brother of Abbott and Amy Lowell). Born to wealth, he prospered in business, then spent the years 1883–93 in Asia, which he wrote about in such books as Soul of the Far East (1888). By the early 1890s he was concentrating on astronomy, and he used his personal fortune to build and staff an observatory (now the Lowell) in Flagstaff, Ariz. From 1894 on, he directed important research there, but he became most famous for predictions: the existence of another planet, confirmed by the discovery of Pluto in 1930; and the existence of intelligent life on Mars, nullified by space probes.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
Caption: CELEBRATED CONTROVERSY Percival Lowell was perhaps the most vocal proponent of intelligent life on Mars.
Darwin, not Percival Lowell, is the key influence on the Martian image.
Strauss, Percival Lowell: The Culture and Science of a Boston Brahmin, Harvard University Press, 2001
Furthermore, a remarkable expedition was directed by Percival Lowell in the Taracapa-Atacama desert region of Chile, at an altitude of 1400m [4593ft], where rain never falls.
Drawn by the region's clean air, wealthy Bostonian Percival Lowell built an observatory on the hill in 1894, and it was here, in 1930, that the planet Pluto was discovered.
Wells, Percival Lowell, and their own famous fictional Martian worlds.
Schiaparelli (1835-1910) (1) was the leading observer of Mars of the late nineteenth century (Figure 1), and he enjoyed a long correspondence with Percival Lowell (1855-1916).
Astronomer Percival Lowell's effort at the start of the 20th century to establish the reality of canals on Mars starkly illustrates this point, according to Galison.
"Last Contact" and "Certainly Now" would be the last lines ever penned by Percival Lowell in his observing logbook, on November 11,1916.
Around the turn of the century, when Percival Lowell was asserting that features he "observed" on the surface of Mars represented artificially constructed canals, some astronomy students expressed confidence that they, too, would be able to see the canals when they became sufficiently competent observers.
It was built by the renowned firm of Alvan Clark & Sons for Percival Lowell, the Mars enthusiast and wealthy black sheep of a patrician Boston family.
As William Sheehan points out in The Planet Mars: A History of Observation & Discovery, although Percival Lowell's canal theory had largely fallen into disrepute, his notions about water, atmosphere, and vegetation on Mars still persisted, at least in popular imagination.