Edward S. Holden

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Edward S. Holden
Edward Singleton Holden 03688r.jpg
Edward Singleton Holden sometime between 1870 and 1880.
Born(1846-11-05)November 5, 1846
DiedMarch 16, 1914(1914-03-16) (aged 67)
Alma materWashington University in St. Louis, B.S. degree; West Point, class of 1870
OccupationAstronomer, university president, professor of mathematics, librarian
EmployerUS Naval Observatory, Washburn Observatory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Lick Observatory, University of California, United States Military Academy
OrganizationAstronomical Society of the Pacific
Known forFifth president of the University of California; discovered 22 NGC objects
Parent(s)Jeremiah and Sarah Holden
RelativesCousin George Phillips Bond, grandson, inventor Edward Singleton Holden
AwardsMember, National Academy of Sciences

Edward Singleton Holden (November 5, 1846 – March 16, 1914)[1] was an American astronomer and the fifth president of the University of California.

Early years[edit]

He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1846 to Jeremiah and Sarah Holden. From 1862–66, he attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he obtained a B.S. degree. He later trained at West Point in the class of 1870.


In 1873 he became professor of mathematics at the US Naval Observatory, where he made a favorable impression on Simon Newcomb. On August 28, 1877, a few days after Asaph Hall discovered the moons of Mars Deimos and Phobos, he claimed to have found a third satellite of Mars. Further analysis showed large mistakes in his observations.[2] He was director of Washburn Observatory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1881 to 1885. He was elected a member of the American National Academy of Sciences in 1885. He discovered a total of 22 NGC objects during his work at Washburn Observatory.

He was president of the University of California from 1885 until 1888,[1] and the first director of the Lick Observatory from 1888 until the end of 1897. He resigned as a result of internal dissent over his management among his subordinates. While at the Lick Observatory, he was the founder of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and its first president (1889–1891).

In 1901 he became the librarian of the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he remained until his death.


He wrote many books on popular science (and on other subjects, such as flags and heraldry), including science books intended for children, for example:

  • Wikisource-logo.svg Sir William Herschel: His Life and Works, 1881.
  • The Mogul emperors of Hindustan, A.D. 1398 – A.D. 1707. New York : C. Scribner's Sons. 1895. On the Mughal Emperors.
  • Real Things In Nature. A Reading Book of Science for American Boys and Girls, 1916.


The asteroid 872 Holda, the crater Holden on the Moon and the crater Holden on Mars are all named in his honor.


His cousin George Phillips Bond was director of Harvard College Observatory. His grandson, also named Edward Singleton Holden, was a well known inventor with numerous patents to his name. He is credited with designing the rolled stainless steel gauge present in most modern fire extinguishers.


  1. ^ a b Verne A. Stadtman, ed. (1967). "Edward Singleton Holden". Centennial Record of the University of California. University of California. p. 14.
  2. ^ The Planet Mars: A History of Observation and Discovery. Chapter 5: 1877. University of Arizona Press

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
W.T. Reid
President of the University of California
Succeeded by
Horace Davis