I love lists. I’ve created them for the 25 greatest astrophotos, 25 essential telescope accessories, 12 great lunar targets, 10 things to do on a cloudy night, and lots more. For our 500th issue, I even wrote “The 500 Coolest Things About Space,” which took up the whole issue. Most were just lists, but for this one, I’m doing something different. I’m ranking my top 20 astronomers.
Here’s a necessary caveat: Throughout recorded history, astronomy — like science in general — has not been a terribly diverse or inclusive field. For instance, the first Black woman in the U.S. to get a Ph.D. in astronomy was Barbara A. Williams, in 1981. This list spans nearly 2,300 years of observers of the cosmos. In another 2,300 years, you can expect the next version of this list to look very different.
That said, I love ranked lists because they get me thinking. I hope this list does the same for you.
20. Charles Messier
June 26, 1730 &...