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James Melville Gilliss Edit Profile

Naval officer , astronomer

James Melville Gilliss, American naval officer, astronomer. member National Academy Sci.


Gilliss, James Melville was born on September 6, 1811 in Georgetown, District of Columbia. Son of George and Mary (Melville) Gilliss.


Attended University of Virginia, 1833.


Entered United States Navy, 1826. Commissioned midshipman, 1833. Studied in Paris for 6 months, 1835, ordered back to Washington (District of Columbia), assigned to Depot of Charts and Instruments.

In charge of depot, 1837. Commissioned to make astronomical observations in Washington necessary for evaluation of longitude observation of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes’ expedition, 1838. Pointed out inadequacy of existing building and equipment for astronomical research to Board Naval Commissioners, 1841 (led to act of Congress providing for establishment United States Naval Observatory at Washington).

Visited Europe in interests of observatory, circa 1842-1843, authorized by Congress to go to Santiago (Chile) to observe Venus and Mars, 1849-1852. Became superintendent United States Naval Observatory, 1861. Member National Academy Sci.


Member National Academy Sci.


Married Rebecca Roberts, December 1837.

George Gilliss

Mary (Melville) Gilliss

Rebecca Roberts