John E. Mellish

John Edward Mellish (12 January 1886 – 13 July 1970, Medford, Oregon) was an American amateur astronomer and telescope builder.[1]

John E. Mellish circa 1910


Mellish was born in Wisconsin, the son of Arthur Mellish (1862–1928) and Judith Sedora Stimson Mellish (1864–1954).[1][2] Mellish lived outside of Madison, Wisconsin in Cottage Grove. By age 24 he was credited with discovering or co-discovering two comets: comet Grigg-Mellish (1907b, 1907 II, C/1907 G1) and comet 1907e (1907 V, C/1907 T1) using home built telescopes, and received astronomical medals from both the United States and Mexico as a result.[3] He later discovered another three comets: 1915a (1915 II, C/1915 C1), 1915d (1915 IV, C/1915 R1), and 1917a (1917 I, D/1917 F1, D/Mellish 1).[4]

In November 1915 he announced to have observed craters on Mars, and being the second person to do so after E. E. Barnard. Both claims are disputed to this day, but he is still credited to be the first human to recognize craters on Mars using the great 40-inch Yerkes refractor.

John E. Mellish, 1925

A crater on Mars (Mellish) was named in his honor.

In 1931, Mellish confessed to committing incest with his 15-year-old daughter. Astronomers advocated that he be spared jail time because of his value to science,[5][6][7] and it was proposed that he be sterilized.[8] Mellish was released on bail in April 1933 after the case never came to trial, and he moved to California.[9][10] His wife divorced him in May 1933 and was given custody of their eight children.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Thompson, Paul (December 1979). "The boy astronomer of Cottage Grove". Wisconsin Academic Review. 26 (1): 34–40.
  2. ^ "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 January 2019), John E Mellish in household of Arthur Mellish, St Lawrence town, Waupaca, Wisconsin, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 138, sheet 7A, family 126, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,823.
  3. ^ Technical World Magazine. Armour Institute of Technology. 1910. pp. 456. technical world magazine john winthrop.
  4. ^ NASA PDS Small Bodies Node comet catalog, consulted 2012-03-20
  5. ^ "Noted Astronomer, Native of Cottage Grove, Prays for Cell to Atone for Sin". Wisconsin State Journal. June 5, 1932. p. 1. Retrieved January 22, 2019 – via  
  6. ^ "Science Fights Law for Genius". The Brownsville Herald. July 1, 1932. p. 1. Retrieved January 22, 2019 – via  
  7. ^ "Genius in Jail as Scientists Urge Pardon". The Province. June 5, 1932. p. 21. Retrieved January 22, 2019 – via  
  8. ^ "Urge Operation for Astronomer Accused by Wife". Chicago Tribune. June 5, 1932. p. 10. Retrieved January 22, 2019 – via  
  9. ^ "John E. Mellish Famous Maker of Lens Is Freed". The Jacksonville Daily Journal. April 14, 1933. p. 6. Retrieved January 22, 2019 – via  
  10. ^ a b "St. Charles Lens Genius' Wife Is Given Divorce". Chicago Tribune. May 12, 1933. p. 21. Retrieved January 22, 2019 – via  

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