James Ferguson (American astronomer)

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For the Scottish astronomer born in 1710, see James Ferguson (Scottish astronomer).
James Ferguson
James Ferguson (astronomer).jpg
James Ferguson
Born (1797-08-31)August 31, 1797
Died September 26, 1867(1867-09-26) (aged 70)
Nationality United States
Fields astronomy
Notable awards Lalande Prize (1854)
Asteroids discovered: 3 [1]
31 Euphrosyne September 1, 1854
50 Virginia October 4, 1857
60 Echo September 14, 1860

James Ferguson (August 31, 1797 – September 26, 1867) was a Scottish-born American astronomer and engineer, who made the first discovery of an asteroid from North America (31 Euphrosyne).[2] Starting in 1847, he worked at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.[3] As an engineer, he helped to build the Erie canal.

In 1850, he "lost" a star that he had been observing, which Lt. Matthew Maury, the superintended of the Observatory, claimed was evidence for a 9th planet (Pluto had not yet been discovered). In 1878, however, CHF Peters, director of the Hamilton College Observatory in New York, showed that the star had not in fact vanished, and that the previous results had been due to human error.[4]

The asteroid 1745 Ferguson, discovered from the same observatory, was later named in his honour.[2]


  1. ^ "Minor Planet Discoverers (by number)". Minor Planet Center. 20 June 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (1745) Ferguson. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "The Observatory". 1907. pp. 352–353. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Morton Grosser (1964). "The Search For A Planet Beyond Neptune". Isis. 55 (2): 163–183. doi:10.1086/349825. JSTOR 228182.