This blog is dedicated to Venetia Burney Phair, who named the now dwarf planet Pluto, as an 11year old school girl in 1930. As you will see in our competition page, Naming X celebrates two significant anniversaries: the 80th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto and the 1st year anniversary of Venetia’s death aged 90.

Venetia at age 11

On the morning of 14 March 1930, Falconer Madan read the story of the new planet's discovery in The Times, and mentioned it to his granddaughter Venetia who was sitting down to breakfast in the dining room of the house in north Oxford. As a young girl, she was keen in Greek and Roman myths and legends at the time, and suggested the name Pluto — the Roman God of the Underworld who was able to make himself invisible.

Falconer Madan forwarded the suggestion to astronomer Herbert Hall Turner, who cabled his American colleagues at Lowell Observatory. Tombaugh liked the proposal because it started with the initials of Percival Lowell who had predicted the existence of Pluto. On 1 May 1930, the name Pluto was formally adopted for this new celestial body.

Venetia died peacefully on 30th April 2009 in Banstead, United Kingdom.

Venetia at 89 (Photo courtesy Martin George 2009)

Read more about Venetia Burney Phair


This blog is a project of Space Renaissance Education Chapter and serves as a tribute to Venetia Burney Phair. We hope to share the story of Venetia and use it as an inspiration to the young students.


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