Samuel Pierpont Langley

by Steve Graham • May 3, 2000

 Samuel Langley Born in the Boston suburb of Roxbury, Ma., Samuel Langley was one of America's most accomplished scientists. His work as an astronomy, physics, and aeronautics pioneer was highly regarded by the international science community. Ironically though, Langley's formal education ended at the high school level, but he managed to continue his scientific education in Boston's numerous libraries.

Langley began his career as a civil engineer in Chicago, continuing later in St. Louis, before returning to Boston to accept an assistantship at the Harvard Observatory. Heading south once again, Langley later taught mathematics at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Then, from 1867-87, he served as professor of physics and astronomy as well as director of the Allegheny Observatory at the Western University of Pennsylvania (now known as the University of Pittsburgh). After 1887, Langley was appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

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Samuel Langley
The Bolometer
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Top: A portrait of Samuel Langley. (Drawing by Hailey King)

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