N. R. Pogson

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Norman Robert Pogson
Born (1829-03-23)23 March 1829
Nottingham, England
Died 23 June 1891(1891-06-23) (aged 62)
Chennai, India
Nationality English
Fields astronomy
Notable awards Lalande Prize (1856)
Asteroids discovered: 8
42 Isis 23 May 1856
43 Ariadne 15 April 1857
46 Hestia 16 August 1857
67 Asia 17 April 1861
80 Sappho 2 May 1864
87 Sylvia 16 May 1866
107 Camilla 17 November 1868
245 Vera 6 February 1885

Norman Robert Pogson, CIE (23 March 1829 in Nottingham – 23 June 1891 in Madras, India) was an English astronomer.[1]

Youth and Education[edit]

He was the son of George Owen Pogson, a hosiery manufacturer, lace dealer and commission agent, "with enough income to support an extended family" (Reddy et al.), and his wife, Mary Ann.[2]

It was intended that he should follow his father into business, and he was accordingly sent for 'commercial education', but he was fascinated by science, and his mother supported and encouraged this interest. He left school at 16, intending to teach mathematics. However, in 1846 he commenced training in astronomy at the South Villa Observatory in Regent's Park in London.[3] By the time he was 18 years old, he had computed the orbital elements of two comets.

Professional Career[edit]

Having been employed as an assistant at the South Villa Observatory in 1851, he moved to the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford in 1852.[4]

In 1860 he travelled to Madras, India, becoming the government astronomer. At the Madras Observatory he produced the Madras Catalogue of 11,015 stars. He also discovered eight asteroids and 13 variable stars.[5]

His most notable contribution was to note that in the stellar magnitude system introduced by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, stars of the first magnitude were a hundred times as bright as stars of the sixth magnitude. Pogson's suggestion in 1856 was to make this a standard; thus, a first magnitude star is 1001/5 or about 2.512 times as bright as a second magnitude star. This fifth root of 100 is known as Pogson's Ratio.

The magnitude relation is given as follows:

m1 - m2 = -2.5 log10 (L1 / L2)

where m is the stellar magnitude and L is the luminosity, for stars 1 and 2.

In 1868 and 1871, Pogson joined the Indian solar eclipse expeditions. In 1872, he observed an object (recorded as X/1872 X1) which he believed to be a return of Biela's Comet.

He headed the Madras Observatory for 30 years until his death.

Family Life[edit]

Pogson was married in London in 1849 to Elizabeth Jane Ambrose, by whom he had 11 children. She died on 5 November 1869. He was married again, in Madras on 25 October 1883, to Edith Louisa Stopford Sibley, a widow, aged 33, by whom he had a further three children: Frederick Vere (born in 1885), Edith Vera (born in 1886; died in infancy) and Edith Gladys (born in 1889).[6]

The asteroid Vera, first discovered by Pogson on 6 February 1885, was named at the suggestion of his wife, Edith Pogson.[7]

The second Mrs Pogson retired to live in Wimbledon and died on 31 December 1946.[8]

Pogson's daughter, Elizabeth Isis Pogson (born on 28 September 1852), served as his assistant at the Madras observatory from 1873 - 1881. She went on to become meteorological reporter for Madras. First proposed for a Fellowship of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1886, she was finally admitted to that honour in 1920.[9]


Pogson was created a Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire in January 1879.[10]

The following celestial features are named after him:


  1. ^  "Pogson, Norman Robert". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ Reddy, V., Snedegar, K., & Balasubramanian, R. K., 'Scaling the magnitude: the fall and rise of N. R. Pogson' in Journal of the British Astronomical Association (vol.117, no.5) (2007), p.238. National Archives, 1851 England Census (class: HO107; piece: 2228; folio: 267; page 2).
  3. ^ Reddy et al., loc. cit.
  4. ^ J.F. Riddick, Who was who in British India (1998), p. 292.
  5. ^ Thomas R. Williams & Michael Saladyga, Advancing Variable Star Astronomy: The Centennial History of the American Association of Variable Star Observers(2011), p. 6.
  6. ^ Marriage registered in Pancras Registration District in the first quarter of 1850. Reddy et al., pp. 242-243. FamilySearch.org, "India, Marriages, 1792-1948"; "India, Births and Baptisms, 1786-1947".
  7. ^ L.D. Schmadel,Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (sixth edition) (2012), p. 35.
  8. ^ Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England (1947), p. 473.
  9. ^ Hockey, T. (editor-in-chief), Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (vol. II, M-Z) (2007), p. 920. FamilySearch.org, "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975".
  10. ^ Reddy et al., p. 243.

External links[edit]

Pogson, Norman Robert in libraries (WorldCat catalog)