Lunar Scientists

Half the fun of studying the Moon is learning about the great, passionate and sometime odd people who have been obsessed by it. There is a long list of ancient and modern lunar observers and scientists with interesting personalities and histories. This is the page to honor them, and maybe shake our heads in wonderment too. The absolute best place to read about these lunar people is Epic Moon by Bill Sheehan and Tom Dobbins - who themselves must be a little lunar obsessed!
Please add names, links and descriptions.


  • Pythagoras of Samos (~580-500 BCE) - asserted he could write on the moon. His plan of operation was to write on a looking-glass in blood, and place it opposite the moon, when the inscription would appear photographed or reflected on the moon's disc.
  • Democritus (~450 BCE) - was the first philosopher we know who realized that the celestial body we perceive as the Milky Way is formed from the light of distant stars.
  • Aristotle (384-322 BCE) - From the 3rd century to the 1500s, the dominant view held that the Earth was the center of the universe (geocentrism). This scientific concept was proposed by Aristotle and Plato.
  • Aristarchus of Samos (~310-230 BCE)
  • Eratosthenes of Cyrene (276-197 BCE)
  • Plutarch (46-120 AD) - a famous Graeco-Roman biographer/historian; and also the author of an influential text about the Moon
  • Claudius Ptolemy (~85-165 AD)

17th-19th Centuries

  • William Gilbert(1544-1603) was an English physician and a natural philosopher. He made the first naked-eye lunar drawings.
  • Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was the first to report lunar mountains and craters, whose existence he deduced from the patterns of light and shadow on the Moon's surface (1609-1610).
  • Giambattista Riccioli (1598-1671) wrote the important work Almagestum novum in 1651. He and Grimaldi extensively studied the Moon, of which Grimaldi drew a map. Much of the nomenclature of lunar features still in use today is due to him and Grimaldi.
  • Michel Florent van Langren (1600–1675) was a Dutch astronomer and cartographer. He made the first serious attempt to name lunar features. He tried to determine longitude by observing the position of the Moon. This led him to make the first ever map of the Moon, and he produced maps of the Moon at thirty different phases. He also assigned names to various lunar features, but few of these names were widely accepted as they were closely linked to the Spanish royal court.
  • Johannes Hevelius (1611–1687) was an astronomer who is considered "the founder of lunar topography". He published the first lunar atlas.
  • Francesco Grimaldi (1618-1663) built and used instruments to measure geological features on the Moon, and drew an accurate map or selenograph which was published by Riccioli.
  • Tobias Mayer (1723-1762) Created the first set of lunar coordinates.
  • Paolo Frisi (1728-1784) was an Italian mathematician and astronomer. He studied the difficult problem of the motion of the moon.
  • Johann Schröter (1745-1816) published an important early study on the topography of the Moon in 1791.
  • Johann Tobias Bürg (1766-1835) was an Austrian astronomer. He published some astronomical tables on the Moon that were praised for their accuracy.
  • Wilhelm Beer (1777-1850). Together with Johann Mädler he produced the first exact map of the Moon, Mappa Selenographica, in 1834-1836, and in 1837 published a description of the Moon, Der Mond nach seinen kosmischen und individuellen Verhältnissen. Both remained the best descriptions of the Moon for many decades.
  • Giovanni Plana (1781-1864) was an Italian astronomer and mathematician. His contributions included work on the motions of the Moon.
  • Johann Mädler - (1794-1874) and Wilhelm Beer produced the first exact map of the Moon, Mappa Selenographica, published in four volumes in 1834–1836.
  • Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (1816-1892) was an American astronomer. He invented the first telescope designed specifically for astrophotography. He produced a quality collection of photographs of the Moon.
  • John William Draper (1811–1882) was an American (English-born) scientist, historian, and photographer. He was the first person to take an astrophotograph; he took the first photo of the Moon which showed any lunar features in 1840. Then in 1843 he made daguerreotypes which showed new features on the moon in the visible spectrum.
  • Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834-1906) was an American astronomer, physicist and inventor of the bolometer. In 1890 he published a widely read paper on the Moon observations.
  • Julius Schmidt (1825-1884) spent most of his career making drawings of the Moon, preparing a map of it. Published in 1874, it was the first map of the Moon to surpass the celebrated map of Beer and Mädler.
  • Thomas Elger (1836-1897) was a lunar mapper and the first director of the Lunar Section of the British Astronomical Association (BAA). He is known as a careful and indefatigable selenographer. Elger's The Moon (1895) is one of the little known classics from the golden age of visual lunar observing.
  • Ladislaus Weinek (1848-1913) was an Austro-Hungarian astronomer. He produced the first atlas of the Moon that was based on photographs.
  • Edmund Neison (1849-1940) was the author of first book on the Moon in English in 1876.
  • Frank Washington Very (1852-1927) was an American astronomer. His most important work was in measuring the temperature of the surfaces of the Moon and other planets using a bolometer.
  • Ernest William Brown (1866-1938) was a British astronomer and mathematician who developed theory of lunar motion. His life's work was the study of the Moon's motion and the compilation of extremely accurate lunar tables. It was only in 1984 that Brown's work was superseded by more modern computational methods of calculating the Moon's ephemeris.
  • P. B. Molesworth (1967-1908) British amateur planetary observer

20th Century

  • Dai Arthur - A founding member of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
  • Ralph Baldwin - developed modern approach to understanding history of Moon; recognized basins and compiled convincing evidence that lunar craters formed by impact, not volcanism
  • Mary Blagg - devoted her life to astronomy; created IAU catalog & map of lunar craters in 1935
  • Howard Eskildsen - dedicated lunar observer in Florida
  • Phillip Fauth - the last great cartographer of lunar maps derived from visual observing
  • V.A. Firsoff - prolific author of semi-popular books, including about the moon and extraterrestrial life
  • Walter Goodacre - published a 77" diameter hand drawn map of the moon.
  • Peter Grego - an astronomy writer and amateur astronomical observer
  • Bill Hartmann - noted astronomer, author and artist. He is senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson.
  • B. Ray Hawke
  • Gerard Kuiper - noted planetary scientist who revived interest in lunar studies in the early 1960's.
  • A.V. Markov
  • Patrick Moore - specialist in lunar observation, especially the areas of the Moon's libration.
  • Antonio Paluzíe Borrell - Spanish astronomer with an interest in the history of lunar cartography.
  • Antonin Rükl - great lunar cartographer of the 20th century; created lunar maps for a series of books culminating in his Atlas of the Moon.
  • Graham Ryder - British-American expert on lunar samples- impish sense of humor, died in 2002.
  • Peter Schultz - crater-forming experimenter and author of magnificent lunar book.
  • Gene Shoemaker - understood impact crater dynamics, including rays and secondary craters; initiated geologic mapping of the Moon; discovered near-Earth asteroids - the projectiles that make lunar craters. Gene Shoemaker in magazine LIFE.
  • Paul Spudis - maps basins with multispectral data, deputy science team leader on Clementine.
  • Werner von Braun - chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the rocket that propelled the United States to the Moon.
  • Ewen Whitaker - one of the leading experts on lunar nomenclature.
  • Don E. Wilhelms - Selenographer, author of The Geologic History of the Moon.
  • Hugh Percy Wilkins - In 1951 he published a 300"-diameter map of the Moon, considered by some as the culmination of the art of selenography prior to the space age.

21st Century

For photos and biographies of lunar scientists who visited the Johnson Space Center in the 1970's and 1980's follow the links in the Warner Collection.

This page has been edited 60 times. The last modification was made by - JimMosher JimMosher on Dec 9, 2012 2:04 pm