Isis Pogson

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Elizabeth Isis Pogson
Born28 September 1852
Oxford, England
Died14 May 1945(1945-05-14) (aged 92)
Croydon, London
Other namesElizabeth Isis Kent
Known forAstronomy

Isis Pogson (born Elizabeth Isis Pogson; 28 September 1852 – 14 May 1945) was a British astronomer and meteorologist.


Early life[edit]

Pogson was born in Oxford, England, the eldest[1] daughter of Norman Pogson by his first marriage to Elizabeth Jane Ambrose (died 1869).[2] She was likely named after the River Isis, the part of the River Thames that flows through Oxford.[3]

Role of her father[edit]

Norman Pogson was an assistant at Radcliffe Observatory and then at Hartwell Observatory. He discovered the asteroid 42 Isis on 23 May 1856,[3][4] for which he was awarded the Lalande Prize.[5] The asteroid was named by Professor Manuel John Johnson, director of the Radcliffe Observatory, presumably in honour of Pogson's daughter Isis; it could also have been a reference to the River Isis.[3]

When her father became director of the Madras Observatory in Madras, India, in October 1860, he travelled to his new post with his first wife and three[4] of his 11[2] children, including Isis. His wife died in 1869, and he relied upon Isis to look after his other children.[6] She also worked in India as her father's assistant.[5] She was given the post of computer at the observatory in 1873 with the salary of 150 rupees,[6][7] equivalent to a "cook or coach-man",[5] and worked there for 25 years until she retired with a pension of 250 rupees[6] in 1898, when the observatory closed. She served as the meteorological superintendent and reporter for the Madras government from 1881.[1][8]

Fellowship of the Royal Astronomical Society[edit]

Pogson was the first woman to attempt to be elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, being nominated (unsuccessfully) by her father in 1886.[5] Although the society had elected a few women as honorary members, all the fellows had been male up to this time. Her nomination was withdrawn when two attorneys deemed female fellows illegal under the provisions of the society's royal charter dating from 1831, which referred to fellows only as he.[9][10] She was successfully nominated in 1920 by Oxford professor H. H. Turner, five years after the Royal Astronomical Society first opened its doors to women.[6][11][12]


After retiring from astronomy, she married Herbert Clement Kent, a captain in the Merchant Navy,[6] on 17 August 1902 in Red Hill, Queensland, Australia.[1] The couple returned to England, living in Bournemouth and then London. Pogson died in Croydon.[6]


  1. ^ a b c "Marriages: Kent–Pogson". The Queenslander. 23 August 1902. p. 400. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b Snedegar, Keith (2007). "Pogson, Norman Robert". In Hockey, Thomas; Trimble, Virginia; Williams, Thomas R. Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. 2. New York: Springer Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-9917-7_1107. ISBN 978-1-4419-9917-7. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Schmadel, Lutz D. (2009). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer. p. 15. ISBN 3642019668.
  4. ^ a b Reddy, V., Snedegar, K., & Balasubramanian, R. K. "Scaling the magnitude: The fall and rise of N. R. Pogson". Journal of the British Astronomical Association. 117 (5): 237&ndash, 245. Bibcode:2007JBAA..117..237R.
  5. ^ a b c d Brück, Mary T. (2009). Women in Early British and Irish Astronomy: Stars and Satellites. Dordrecht: Springer. p. 157. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-2473-2. ISBN 978-90-481-2472-5.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Hutchins, Roger (2004). Pogson, Norman Robert (1829–1891). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
  7. ^ Kidwell, Peggy Aldrich (September 1984). "Women Astronomers in Britain, 1780–1930". Isis. 75 (3): 534–546. doi:10.1086/353572. JSTOR 232943.
  8. ^ Black, Charles E.D. (1891). A memoir on the Indian Surveys, 1875–1890. p. 293.
  9. ^ Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey (1986). Women in science: antiquity through the nineteenth century: a biographical dictionary with annotated bibliography (3 ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 026265038X.
  10. ^ Bailey, Mandy (2016). "Women and the RAS: 100 Years of Fellowship" (PDF). Astronomy & Geophysics. Royal Astronomical Society. 57 (1): 19–21. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Annual General Meeting". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Royal Astronomical Society. 80 (4): 336. 1920. Bibcode:1920MNRAS..80..335.. doi:10.1093/mnras/80.4.335. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  12. ^ "April 9, 1920". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Royal Astronomical Society. 80 (6): 563. 1920. Bibcode:1920MNRAS..80..563.. doi:10.1093/mnras/80.6.563. Retrieved 26 January 2016.