Edward S. Holden

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Edward S. Holden
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
Occupation(s)Astronomer, university president, professor of mathematics, librarian
Employer(s)US 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 Edward and Sarah Frances (Singleton) Holden.[2][3] From 1862 to 1866, 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.[4] 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.

Holden 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). Holden was awarded five honorary degrees: an M.A. degree from Washington University in 1879, an LL.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1886, an LL.D. from Columbia University in 1887, a Sc.D. from the University of the Pacific in 1896 and a Litt.D. from Fordham College in 1910.[2]

In 1901, Holden became the librarian of the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he remained until his death. He was buried at the West Point Cemetery on March 18, 1914.[5]


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

  • 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.


Holden was a founding member of the Cosmos Club.[6]

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. ^ a b Campbell, W. M. (1919). "Biographical Memoir of Edward Singleton Holden 1846–1914". Biographical Memoirs. Vol. VIII. National Academy of Sciences. p. 347. Retrieved December 13, 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Tillman, S. E. (1915). "Edward S. Holden". Forty-Sixth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, June 11th, 1915. Saginaw, Michigan: Seemann & Peters, Inc., Printers and Binders. pp. 52–74. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  4. ^ "The Planet Mars: A History of Observation and Discovery. Chapter 5: 1877. University of Arizona Press". Archived from the original on November 3, 2017. Retrieved October 17, 2007.
  5. ^ "Holden, Edward Singleton". Army Cemeteries Explorer. U.S. Army. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  6. ^ Oehser, Paul H. “The Cosmos Club of Washington: A Brief History.” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C. 60/62 (1960): 250–65. JSTOR 40067229.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by President of the University of California
Succeeded by