Christiaan Huygens (April 14, 1629 - June 8, 1695)

[Image of C. Huygens] Born in The Hague in 1629, Christiaan Huygens was a famous Dutchman for his development of advanced pendulum clocks (1659). He also invented an improved type of 2-lense eyepieces (1703), now named after him, and constructed very long air telescopes of up to 250 feet focal length. With these, he made important discoveries such as a dark surface feature on Mars, later named Syrtis Major and shown in the first map of Mars created in 1659, the polar caps of Mars first depicted in 1772, and Jupiter's equatorial bulge. He discovered Saturn's satellite Titan (March 25, 1655) and was the first to clearly see its rings and to explain their appearance over time (1655-59). In 1656 he independently discovered the Orion Nebula M42 and made detailed studies and sketches of this object, including the discovery of three stars of the Trapezium cluster.

He visited London in 1665 and was made a member of the Royal Society. On invitation of the French King Louis XIV, he came to Paris in 1666 and became a founding member of the Academie Royale des Sciences (Royal Academy of Sciences) where he worked with G.D. Cassini.

In 1684, he undertook new studies of the Orion Nebula and independently discovered the fourth Trapezium star which had been originally discovered in the meantime by Picard in 1673.

Huygens also contributed significantly to physics: In 1656, he derived the conservation of momentum law, in 1659, he established the idea of centrifugal forces, and in 1678 in Paris, he developed his famous wave theory of light.

Huygens left France in about 1686 for religious reasons, fearing persecution as he was a protestant, visited England in 1689 and then retired to The Hague, where he died in 1695 at age 66.

He was honored by naming a Lunar mountain range, Mons Huygens (20.0N, 2.9W, 40 km diameter, in 1961) and a Mars Crater after him (14.3S, 304.6W, 470.0 km diameter, named 1973), as well as the Huygens Probe spacecraft which is to land on Saturn's moon Titan. Asteroid (2801) Huygens has been discovered on September 28, 1935 by H. van Gent at Johannesburg, provisionally named 1935 SU1 as well as 1968 UG, 1976 JP5, 1977 TT1, 1980 FF11, and 1982 UZ on the occasion of later independent findings.



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