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John Couch Adams

(5 June 1819 - 21 January 1892)

John Adams was born in Laneast, near Launceston, in 1819 and died in Cambridge.


From an early age he showed a bent for mathematics and astronomy and he became Lowndean Professor in the University of Cambridge from 1859 until his death. His personal library is held at Cambridge University Library. He won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1866 and was a delegate for Britain at the 1884 International Meridian Conference. He was also offered the post of Astronomer Royal and a knighthood, but turned them both down.


John Adams's most famous achievement was predicting the existence and position of Neptune, using only mathematics. The calculations were made to explain discrepancies with Uranus's orbit and the laws of Kepler and Newton. At the same time, but unknown to each other, the same calculations were made by Urbain Le Verrier. Le Verrier would send his coordinates to Berlin Observatory astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle, who confirmed the existence of the planet on 23 September 1846, finding it within 1 of Le Verrier's predicted location. The Adams Prize, presented by the University of Cambridge, commemorates his prediction of the position of Neptune.




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