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The William Huggins Biography – The Pioneer of Astrophotography

According to the William Huggins biography, he pioneered in using photography as a way to study the stars. He was the first to distinguish the difference between nebulae and galaxies.

Personal Information

William Huggins was born in Cornhill, Middlesex, England on February 7, 1824. His father was a London silkmercer (aka weaver of silk products). He attended public school for only a short while before being taught privately. According to William Huggins biography, after completing his schooling Huggins went into business. After a few years Huggins retired and dedicated his life to the study of science especially spectroscopy (study of the spectra and their emissions).

The William Huggins biography doesn’t include much about his personal life. In 1875 William Huggins married Margaret Lindsay Murray, an Irish astronomer. After their marriage, they worked together worked in the private observatory William Huggins built in London, England. William Huggins died on May 12, 1910 and was buried in Golders Green cemetery in London, England.


According to the William Huggins biography, Williams Huggins first observed that stars were made up with the same elements as on Earth and the Sun. He published his observations in 1863. Huggins went on to discover that nebula emitted a single bright line. He examined over 50 more nebula and discovered one third of them were gas. This solved the difference between nebulae and galaxies. He was one of the astronomers to begin a new branch of study, astrophysics.

Huggins studied Sirius and tried to photograph it, but wasn’t successful until 1876. In 1899 Huggins and his wife published his work on the stars. It was titled Atlas of Representative Stellar Spectra.

Honors and Awards

Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society 1867

Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society 1883

Became a member of the Royal Swedish Society of Sciences 1883

Knighted in 1897

Copley Medal (given by the Royal Society of London) 1898

President of the Royal Society 1900 - 1905

Henry Draper Medal (given by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences) 1901

Order of Merit 1902

Bruce Medal (given by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific) 1904

A crater on the Moon is named for him

A crater on Mars is named for him

Asteroid 2635 Huggins is named for him

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