Paul McNally (astronomer)

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Paul A. McNally
Rev. Paul McNally.jpg
Rev. Paul McNally
Born October 15, 1890
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died March 4, 1955(1955-03-04) (aged 64)
Washington, D.C.
Residence Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Citizenship U.S.
Alma mater St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Master of Divinity);University of California-Los Angeles (B.S.); Fordham University (Ph.D.)
Known for Research in astronomy; Dean of Georgetown University School of Medicine; 1946-1953; Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society
Scientific career
Fields Astronomer; Educator; Cleric & Scientist
Institutions Fordham University; Boston College; Georgetown University

Paul A. McNally (October 15, 1890 – March 4, 1955) was an American astronomer, scientist, and Jesuit priest. He was also a Dean of the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Early life[edit]

McNally, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was one of seven children born to Charles McNally and Martha (Tully) McNally.[1] He was educated in parochial schools there and then entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary of the Roman Catholic church, being ordained in 1914. McNally pursued further education in physics and astronomy at the University of California-Los Angeles, and then obtained a Ph.D. in astronomy at Fordham University in New York City in 1926. He was a faculty member in the departments of astronomy and physics at Fordham and Boston College thereafter. He was elected to fellowship in the Royal Astronomical Society in 1929.

Director of Georgetown Observatory[edit]

In 1928, he had been asked to become the director of the Georgetown Observatory, succeeding Rev. Edward C. Phillips, S.J., Ph.D. McNally began work at Georgetown University with rather rudimentary equipment,[2] observing occultations and searching for Herschel's fields using a 12" equatorial visual refractor. Thereafter, two 3" Ross-type astrographic cameras were added, and the focus of the Georgetown Observatory's research was on solar eclipses.[3] McNally photographed the total eclipse at Fryeburg, Maine in 1932, winning a commendation for that work at the annual meeting of the London Photographic Society. He participated in solar eclipse expeditions that were sponsored by the National Geographic Society in Siberia in 1936; in Canton Island in 1937; and in Patos, Brazil in 1940.[2]


After the outbreak of World War II, McNally was charged with coordinating all liaison efforts between the science departments at Georgetown University and the U.S. government, regarding the war effort. His success in that role resulted in his subsequent appointment as chief fund-raiser for a new university hospital at Georgetown in 1945 and he later became a Vice President at the institution. In 1946 McNally was appointed as the Georgetown University School of Medicine's Dean and Regent.[4]

Illness and death[edit]

Father McNally developed symptomatic coronary artery disease in 1952, and had the first of several myocardial infarcts (heart attacks). Consequently, he had to resign his deanship and was succeeded by Francis M. Forster. McNally died in March 1955 at the age of 64, in the midst of a project to organize a graduate program in physics at Georgetown.[5]

The crater McNally on the Moon is named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 1956; 116: 152-153.
  3. ^ (accessed 7-30-2012)
  4. ^
  5. ^ Titusville Herald (Titusville, Pennsylvania), March 5, 1955, p.1.