The Biography of Edmund Halley

The Biography of Edmund Halley

Edmund Halley was a British astronomer, a mathematician, he also calculated the orbit of a comet, which was later named in his honor by Halley’s comet.

Childhood and youth

Edmund Halley was born November 8, 1656 in Haggerston, Gordic, England, in the family of a soap-maker and merchant, also called Edmund. Edmund Sr. owned various real estate in London. And although the Halley family lost most of the property because of the Great London Fire in 1666, it practically did not affect the financial situation.

Halley was trained at home until he entered St. Paul’s school, where he was the most capable student in all subjects, and at the age of 15 became the school’s captain. After school, he enrolled at King’s College, Oxford. Even before entering

it, he began to study astronomy and always carried with him accessories for astronomical observations. Halley left college without completing his studies. Two years later, he began working for John Flamsteed, the Royal Astronomer. In his work of 1676 with the title “Philosophical Works of the Royal Society,” Flamsteed mentioned the name Halley, who, in addition to helping Flamsteed, also engaged in his own observations. In 1676, Halley published his observations in the Philosophical Works of the Royal Society.


With the financial support of his father and the all-round assistance of King George II, Halley went to St. Helena, which was located in the southernmost part of the British Empire. Although the island was not the best place for astronomical observations, Halley spent a year and a half cataloging 341 stars of the Southern Hemisphere, and also discovered planetary nebulae. He also observed and described the motion of Mercury. Taking into account all the data obtained, his trip was recognized as successful. He returned to England in 1678 and published a catalog of the stars of the Southern Hemisphere.

Despite the fact that Halley did not receive a degree in Oxford, he soon became one of the most outstanding astronomers, and King Charles II issued a decree granting him a degree at the University

of Oxford without passing the appropriate examinations. Soon he was accepted into the Royal Society, in which he became the youngest member.

The respect with which John Flamsteed treated him at the beginning of their collaboration soon turned into dislike. For the next few years, Halley traveled a lot and devoted much time to astronomical observations. Together with Giovanni Cassini he defined the boundaries of the comet, which he discovered. In 1682 he returned to England and married Mary Tuck. And in the same year his father also married a second time. The marriage of Halley’s father had a negative impact on his financial support, because it was terminated. In 1684, Halley’s father disappeared and five weeks later was found dead. Edmund Jr. had to deal with his father’s property.

Before the disappearance of his father, Halley conducted research with members of the Royal Society, Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke.

Trying to get an academic post, Halley submitted his candidacy for the post of Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford, which at that time was free. But because of increased enmity Flamsteed prevented the appointment. During the following years, Halley continued to work for the Royal Society in various ways: published the world’s first death table and began in-depth study of comets. Thanks to his close cooperation with Newton, who was appointed head of the mint, he became deputy head of the mint in Chester. After the end of his tenure, Halley took command of the British naval ship Paramour, which was used for a scientific expedition that ended in 1700.


In 1704, Halley was appointed Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford. In 1705, Halley published his research in a book entitled “Report on the astronomy of comets.” After the death of John Flamsteed, Halley was granted the status of Royal Astronomer. The widow of Flamsteed was furious because of this and sold all her husband’s equipment so that Halley could not use it.

Halley achieved success in many areas: he invented and designed two diving bells for underwater research, worked in the field of archeology, geophysics, history and astronomy, and also dealt with the problem of solving algebraic equations.

Edmund Halley died on January 17, 1742 in Greenwich, England.


“Report on the astronomy of comets”
“Philosophical Works of the Royal Society”

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The Biography of Edmund Halley