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Percival LOWELL

American Percival LOWELL

born Percival Lawrence LOWELL

American businessman, author, mathematician, and astronomer

Source :  Tim DOWLING

Born: on March 13, 1855 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Died: on November 12, 1916 in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA


Percival Lowell was a descendant of the Boston Lowell family. His brother A. Lawrence was the president of Harvard University, and his sister Amy was an imagist poet, critic, and publisher.

Percival graduated from the Noble and Greenough School in 1872 and Harvard University in 1876 with distinction in mathematics. At his college graduation, he gave a speech, considered very advanced for its time, on the "Nebular Hypothesis." He was later awarded honorary degrees from Amherst College and Clark University.

In the 1880s, Lowell traveled extensively in the Far East. In August 1883, he served as a foreign secretary and counsellor for a special Korean diplomatic mission to the United States. He also spent significant periods of time in Japan, writing books on Japanese religion, psychology, and behavior. His texts are filled with observations and academic discussions of various aspects of Japanese life, including language, religious practices, economics, travel in Japan, and the development of personality. Books by Percival Lowell on the Orient include Chosön: The Land of the Morning Calm (1886, Boston), Noto: An Unexplored Corner of Japan (1891) and Occult Japan, or the Way of the Gods (1894); the latter from his third and final trip to the region. The most popular of Lowell's books on the Orient, The Soul of the Far East, (1888) contains an early synthesis of some of his ideas, that in essence, postulated that human progress is a function of the qualities of individuality and imagination.

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1892. Beginning in the winter of 1893-94, using his wealth and influence, Lowell dedicated himself to the study of astronomy, founding the observatory which bears his name. For the last 23 years of his life astronomy, Lowell Observatory, and his and others' work at his observatory were the focal points of his life. He lived to be 61 years of age.

World War I very much saddened Lowell, a dedicated pacifist. This, along with some setbacks in his astronomical work (described below), undermined his health and contributed to his death from a stroke on November 12, 1916.

Another of his books is The Eve of the French Revolution (1892). Lowell is buried on Mars Hill near his observatory.

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See Also :

- Category Inventor, Astronomer, Geographer