Jonathan Homer Lane

Jonathan Homer Lane bigraphy, stories - American astronomer

Jonathan Homer Lane : biography

August 9, 1819 – May 3, 1880

Jonathan Homer Lane (August 9, 1819, Geneseo, New York – May 3, 1880, Washington D.C.) was an American astrophysicist and inventor.

His parents were Mark and Henrietta (née Tenny) Lane and his education was at the Phillips Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. He graduated from Yale University in 1846. He worked for the U.S. Patent Office, and became a principal examiner in 1851. In 1869 he joined the Office of Weights and Measures, a part of the Department of the Treasury that later became the National Bureau of Standards.

Lane was particularly interested in astronomy, and was the first to perform a mathematical analysis of the Sun as a gaseous body. His investigations demonstrated the thermodynamic relations between pressure, temperature, and density of the gas within the Sun, and formed the foundation of what would in the future become the theory of stellar evolution (see Lane-Emden equation).

Simon Newcomb, in his memoirs, describes Lane as "an odd-looking and odd-mannered little man, rather intellectual in appearance, who listened attentively to what others said, but who, so far as I noticed, never said a word himself." Newcomb recounts his own role in bringing Lane’s work, in 1876, to the attention of William Thomson who further popularized the work. Newcomb notes, "it is very singular that a man of such acuteness never achieved anything else of significance."

The crater Lane on the Moon is named after him.