1790 in science
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- Armagh Observatory, founded in Ireland by Richard Robinson, 1st Baron Rokeby, Archbishop of Armagh, begins to function.
- English ornithologist John Latham publishes his Index Ornithologicus, including a scientific description of the black swan.
- English botanical illustrator James Sowerby begins publication of his English Botany, with text by James E. Smith.
- July 31 – Samuel Hopkins of Vermont is granted a patent for a potash production technique, the first issued under the 1st United States Congress's Patent Act of 1790.
- Publication in Montpellier of Jean-Antoine Chaptal's Élémens de chimie, in which he coins the word nitrogen (nitrogène).
- Adair Crawford, working with William Cruickshank, proposes the existence of the alkaline earth metal located near Strontian in Scotland which will later be isolated at strontium.
- Copley Medal: Not awarded
- February 3 – Gideon Mantell, English paleontologist (died 1852)
- March 12 – John Frederic Daniell, English chemist and physicist (died 1845)
- May 23 – Jules Dumont d'Urville, French explorer (died 1842)
- May 30 – John Herapath, English physicist (died 1868)
- July 1 – George Everest, Welsh surveyor and geographer (died 1866)
- October 25 – Robert Stirling, Scottish inventor (died 1878)
- November 17 – August Ferdinand Möbius, German mathematician (died 1868)
- December 9 – Friederike Lienig, Latvian entomologist (d. 1855)
- December 19 – William Edward Parry, English Arctic explorer (died 1855)
- February 5 – William Cullen, Scottish physician and chemist (born 1710)
- March 22 – Anthony Addington, English physician (born 1713)
- April 17 – Benjamin Franklin, American statesman and polymath, known for his experiments with electricity (born 1706)
- July 17 – Johann II Bernoulli, Swiss mathematician (born 1710)
- "Patent Number: US0X0000001". Archived from the original on 2016-04-15.
- Weeks, Mary Elvira (1932). "The discovery of the elements: X. The alkaline earth metals and magnesium and cadmium". Journal of Chemical Education. 9 (6): 1046–1057. Bibcode:1932JChEd...9.1046W. doi:10.1021/ed009p1046.
- Partington, J. R. (1942). "The early history of strontium". Annals of Science. 5 (2): 157. doi:10.1080/00033794200201411.
- Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Reference Library. 2006. ISBN 0-14-102715-0.