August 31 – Édouard Stephan

Birthday boy Édouard Jean-Marie Stephan was born on August 31st, 1837, in Sainte Pezenne, a commune on the outskirts of the town of Niort, in the Poitou-Charentes region of France.tephan discovered two asteroids, 89 Julia and 91 Aegina, both of which have been featured in these pages. But it was on the deep sky that he focused much of his attention, discovering more new nebulae than most, and the now famous (as groups of galaxies go) Stephan’s Quintet.

His work did not go unnoticed, and in 1884 he was awarded the Prix Valz by the French Academy of Sciences. A report on the award in the American journalScientific News described him as “a savant whose discovery of seven hundred nebulae does honor to French astronomy”.

Édouard Jean-Marie Stephan

Édouard Jean-Marie Stephan

Stephan would have been in good company at the awards ceremony (I have no idea whether they had one or not), as that year’s physics prize went to the greatHenri Becquerel, co-discoverer of radioactivity.

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