Percival Lowell

March 13th 1855- November 12th 1916 By Josh Baulch

Before Astronomy

Before Percival Lowell became an astronomer he was a businessman, author and mathematician. In 1890 he learned about canals on Mars by an Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. This intrigued Lowell and he built an observatory.




Dates of Discovery and What He Found Out

He built his observatory in Flagstone Ariziona, 1894. He built it there because of the high altitude and remote location helped him see better.



1894-1905 studying Mars


Percival Lowell though he discovered canals on Mars and said that there were intelligent life forms as well. He also said that Mars had been once covered in greenery but now was a dying planet and the canals were to spread the water around.Astronomers now believe that the marks that he mapped were faint surface features or even his imagnation. He also wrote 3 books on Mars. Mars 1895, Mars and its canals 1906, Mars as the abode of life 1908.


1896-1905 studying Venus


He also studied Venus but his telescope could see nothing through the thick atmosphere of the planet. Anything he did see was an optical illusion caused by his telescope.


1905-1916 looking for Planet X (later named Pluto)


Lowell calculated that variations in Uranus and Neptune orbits were caused by a ninth planet and he named it Planet X ( the calculations weren't actually correct).Cameras took photos of the sky but they didn't find anything. Planet X did appear in a couple of photos but being darker than expected it was not found. Pluto was partly named after Percival Lowell because it included his initials.

Canals on Mars


Technology Used

He used
  • a 61cm Clarks refracting telescope
  • 40inch reflector telescope
The Clarks telescope


Contributions to Our Knowledge

Although his findings about Mars were wrong he contributed by exciting the public about intelligent life forms and by believing that there was a ninth planet.