Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Clyde W. Tombaugh, Discoverer of Pluto. Interesting facts.

There is a lot of excitement regarding the recent satellite flyby the planet Pluto. But it is my opinion that Clyde W. Tombaugh, the 26 year old young man who made the discovery on February 18, 1930, is given only brief mention in the media reports; a sort of  fly-by of historical information. However, researching old Boston Globe articles, I discovered a few interesting facts about Clyde. As a teenager he taught himself solid geometry and trigonometry. In 1926, at the age of 20, he built his first telescope. Dissatisfied with the result and determined to master optics, he built two more telescopes in the next two years, grinding his own lenses and mirrors, and further honing his skills. Using these homemade telescopes, he made drawings of the planets Mars and Jupiter and sent them to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. The astronomers at Lowell were so impressed with the young amateur's powers of observation they invited him to work at the Observatory.

Clyde had only a high school education when he discovered Pluto in 1930. Two years later, he entered the University of Kansas where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1936. He continued to work at Lowell Observatory during the summers and after graduation he returned to work at the Observatory full-time. In 1938, he received his master's degree from the University of Kansas.

Two quotes by Clyde that I like: "I have a lot of sympathy for young people, because I realize how disturbed I was. How would I deal with life in the future? What would I do for a living?" and "That's the way I got along in life. I don't ever remember being particularly jealous of anybody, because I figured if I can't do it myself, I don't deserve to get it.” 

Lastly, being a dad, I was most impressed with what Clyde did on his summer vacation after his discovery. He returned home to the family farm in Missouri and helped his dad with the wheat harvest!

You cannot make stories like these up!


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