Clyde Tombaugh (1906 - 1997)
Date and place of birth: 4th February 1906 in Streator, LaSalle County, Illinois, USA
Early life and Education: Clyde Tombaugh graduated from Burdett High School in 1925. As a student, he developed a history in astronomy and observed space using homemade telescopes. He was unable to afford a college education until he achieved fame. When he had the money to attend college, he was turned down to study freshman astronomy at the University of Kansas, mainly because of his scientific achievements before enrolment.
Employment: Researcher at Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona from 1929 to 1945.
He was offered a job there after sending drawings of
Jupiter and Mars from
observations he had made through his homemade telescope. Teacher of Astronomy at New Mexico State University from 1955. He retired in 1973.
Main achievements: Clyde Tombaugh discovered a number of objects in the Solar System, mainly
asteroids. His most famous discovery was of the
dwarf planet Pluto which he found in 1930 by comparing images of an area of space. He spotted an object appearing in two images but in a different place in each of them, suggesting that the object wasn't a star. The object was recognised as the ninth planet in the Solar System until 2006 when it was reclassified as a
dwarf planet. The discovery of
Pluto wasn't a complete surprise as earlier astronomers had predicted its presence beyond the orbit of
Neptune. Clyde Tombaugh died in 1997, before the
'demotion' of his planet to a dwarf planet.
Landmarks/objects named after Tombaugh: Asteroid 1604 Tombaugh (this asteroid wasn't actually discovered by Tombaugh).
Extra information: Some of Clyde Tombaugh's ashes are carried onboard the New Horizons space craft that visited
Pluto. Tombaugh also believed in the existence of UFOs and reported several sightings of extra-terrestrial objects.