Lewis Boss

Lewis Boss

Lewis Boss

Lewis Boss (1846-1912) directed the Dudley Observatory from 1876 until 1912. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1870. He worked as a clerk for the U.S. Government in Washington, D.C., and as assistant astronomer for the expedition surveying the U.S.- Canada Boundary . In1876 he was appointed director of the Dudley Observatory. In his early years there he carried out a portion of a major international project for mapping the stars of the northern hemisphere, compiled information on comet orbits, and led an 1882 expedition to Santiago, Chile, to observe the transit of Venus. In 1887 he began a program of cataloguing the positions and proper motions of stars. About 1884 Boss won the Warner Prize for an essay about the nature of comets.

By the early twentieth century, he was able, with limited resources to carry this program to a sufficiently advanced state to earn the support of the recently founded Carnegie Institution of Washington, which designated the Dudley Observatory as its Department of Meridian Astrometry in 1906.

With an enlarged staff, he directed the observation of stars both from Albany and from a southern observatory in San Luis, Argentina, and published in 1910 the Preliminary General Catalogue of 6188 Stars for the Epoch 1900, which for decades remained the most comprehensive source of accurate proper motions of a large sample of stars. He also used this data to make his most significant astronomical discovery, the convergent point of the Hyades star cluster, which made possible a major step in determining the distances of the stars.

He died in 1912, leaving his work toward an even larger Catalogue well launched.

His son Benjamin Boss directed the completion of this task, leading to the publication in 1937 of the General Catalogue of 33,342 Stars for the Epoch 1950.

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Link to an essay by Lewis Boss – “Comets, their Composition, Purpose and Effect upon the Earth” (JPG)