Benjamin Apthorp Gould, the first American to earn a Ph.D. in astronomy, was born in Boston in 1824. He earned a degree from Harvard, and traveled to Europe to pursue his education in astronomy. After stays at several European observatories, he earned his Ph.D. under the celebrated mathematician and astronomer Carl Friedrich Gauss at the University of Gottingen, Germany. He returned to the U.S. to found the first American journal of astronomy, the Astronomical Journal, in 1849, and to carry out studies of longitude determination for the U.S. Coast Survey.
While in this post, he became the first director of the Dudley Observatory. His brief (1856-1858) tenure was marred by the Dudley Observatory Controversy. He returned to Cambridge and to the Coast Survey, and engaged for some years in business to repair family fortunes. In 1864 he married Mary Apthorp Quincy, daughter of the president of Harvard, and returned to full time astronomy. He pioneered in astronomical photography from his home observatory in Cambridge. Then, in 1870, he traveled to Argentina to found and direct the Observatorio National Argentino in Cordoba, Argentina. There he made an exhaustive survey of Southern stars, the Uranometria Argentina, made precise determinations of the positions of more than 50,000 Southern stars, continued his efforts in astronomical photography, and discovered the southern portion of a belt of bright stars on the edges of the Milky Way. That belt is now called the Gould belt in his honor. When Gould returned to Cambridge, he reestablished the Astronomical Journal with the assistance of Seth A. Chandler. Chandler would also complete the publishing the Resultados after Gould’s death. An original member of the National Academy of Sciences, he continued to carry out and champion astronomical research until his death in 1896.
In his lifetime, he acquired a superb historical collection of astronomical books, a portion of which forms the Gould collection in the Dudley Observatory Library. Many of Gould’s letters to the trustees of Dudley Observatory both before and during the Controversy can be found in the Dudley Observatory Archives.