Famous Astronomers from South Africa

List of notable or famous astronomers from South Africa, with bios and photos, including the top astronomers born in South Africa and even some popular astronomers who immigrated to South Africa. If you're trying to find out the names of famous South African astronomers then this list is the perfect resource for you. These astronomers are among the most prominent in their field, and information about each well-known astronomer from South Africa is included when available.

List contains people like Robert T. A. Innes and David Gill.

This historic astronomers from South Africa list can help answer the questions "Who are some South African astronomers of note?" and "Who are the most famous astronomers from South Africa?" These prominent astronomers of South Africa may or may not be currently alive, but what they all have in common is that they're all respected South African astronomers.

Use this list of renowned South African astronomers to discover some new astronomers that you aren't familiar with. Don't forget to share this list by clicking one of the social media icons at the top or bottom of the page. {#nodes}

  • Cyril V. Jackson (5 December 1903 – February 1988) was a South African astronomer, born in Ossett, Yorkshire in England, but his father emigrated to South Africa in 1911. He worked at Union Observatory in Johannesburg from 1928 to 1947 (IAU code 078, previously known as Transvaal Observatory and later known as Republic Observatory). He served with South African forces in the second world war, and was mentioned in despatches. After the war he was director of the Yale-Columbia Southern Observatory (YCSO) station in Johannesburg (IAU code 077), which had been established by Yale University in the 1920s. Columbia University subsequently collaborated in that venture and the operation became known as the Yale-Columbia Southern Observatory (YCSO, Inc. was formally created in 1962). Due to light pollution that observatory had to be shut down in 1951 and he supervised the move of its instrument, a 26-inch refracting telescope, to Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia (IAU code 414). This Yale-Columbia telescope was given to the Australian National University in July 1963, and was destroyed in the 18 January 2003 firestorm that devastated Mount Stromlo. Jackson worked at Mount Stromlo from 1957 to 1963. In 1963, Yale reopened its Columbia Southern Observatory at El Leoncito, Argentina (IAU code 808), and he served as its director there until 1966, when he retired. He discovered a number of comets, including the periodic comets 47P/Ashbrook-Jackson and 58P/Jackson-Neujmin. He also discovered 72 asteroids in the earlier part of his career at Union Observatory.
    • Age: Dec. at 84 (1903-1988)
    • Birthplace: Ossett, United Kingdom
  • David Gill
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain
    Sir David Gill (12 June 1843 – 24 January 1914) was a Scottish astronomer who is known for measuring astronomical distances, for astrophotography, and for geodesy. He spent much of his career in South Africa.
    • Age: Dec. at 70 (1843-1914)
    • Birthplace: Aberdeen, United Kingdom
  • Ernest Leonard Johnson

    Ernest Leonard Johnson (1891 - 1977) was a South African astronomer and a former staff member of the Union Observatory in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is known for the discovery of 18 asteroids between 1946–1951, as well as several comets. On 25 August 1949, he discovered 48P/Johnson, a periodic comet expected to pass no closer than 1.2 to 1.3 AU from our planet in 2025. Johnson received the "Donohoe Comet Medal" twice before retiring in 1956. He died in 1977.
  • Harry Edwin Wood

    Harry Edwin Wood (3 February 1881 – 27 February 1946) was an English astronomer, director of the Union Observatory in Johannesburg, and discoverer of minor planets.Wood was born in Manchester, graduating from Manchester University in 1902 with first class honours in physics, going on to gain an M.Sc in 1905. In 1906 he was appointed the Chief Assistant at the Transvaal Meteorological Observatory, which soon acquired telescopes and which became known as the Union Observatory and later Republic Observatory. In 1909, he married Mary Ethel Greengrass, also a physics graduate of Manchester University. Wood served as the observatory's director from 1928 to 1941, succeeding Robert Innes. He also served as the president of the Astronomical Society of South Africa from 1929 to 1930.Wood is credited by the Minor Planet Center with the discovery of 12 numbered asteroids during 1911–1932.He died in Mortimer, near Cradock, Eastern Cape, South Africa, in 1946. The asteroid 1660 Wood, discovered by his colleague Jacobus Bruwer at Johannesburg, is named in his honor (M.P.C. 3297).
    • Age: Dec. at 65 (1881-1946)
    • Birthplace: Manchester, United Kingdom
  • Jack C. Bennett (1914 - 1990) was a South African amateur astronomer who is best known for discovering Comet Bennett (C/1969 Y1) and a supernova (SN 1968L) in the Messier 83 galaxy. He was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (1974).
    • Age: Dec. at 76 (1914-1990)
    • Birthplace: Estcourt, South Africa
  • John S. Paraskevopoulos

    John Stefanos Paraskevopoulos (June 20, 1889 – March 15, 1951) also known as John Paras, was a Greek/South African astronomer. He was born in Piraeus, Greece and graduated from the University of Athens, where he obtained his PhD in Physics in 1910, under the supervision of Timoleon A. Argyropoulos. He served in the Greek army during the Balkan Wars and World War I. He work as an assistant of Prof. Demetrios Eginitis at the National Observatory of Athens, and in 1919, he went to the US with a two-year fellowship, spending part of that time working at Yerkes Observatory. There he met and married Dorothy W. Block. In 1921, he returned to Athens where he became head of the astronomy department of the National Observatory of Athens with a goal to built a large telescope in Greece. However, due to the war between Greece and Turkey during that period and the political instability that followed it soon became evident that the large telescope for the observatory would not materialise. So, in September 1923 Dr Paras accepted an offer from Dr Harlow Shapley, to become the Superintendent of the Harvard Observatory's Southern Station. He left this post due to a lack of funding and went to Arequipa, Peru to work at Boyden Station, a branch of Harvard Observatory, with a view to finding a more suitable location for it. The decision was made to move Boyden Station to South Africa due to better weather conditions, and Paraskevopoulos served there as director of Boyden Observatory in South Africa from 1927 to 1951. He co-discovered a couple of comets. The crater Paraskevopoulos on the Moon is named after him.
    • Age: Dec. at 61 (1889-1951)