David Peck Todd

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David Peck Todd

Birthdate: (84)
Death: 1939 (84)
Immediate Family:

Son of Sereno Edwards Todd and Rhoda Peck

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Immediate Family

About David Peck Todd


David Peck Todd (March 19, 1855 – June 1, 1939) was a noted American astronomer. He produced a complete set of photographs of the 1882 transit of Venus.


Todd was born in Lake Ridge, New York, the son of Sereno Edwards Todd and Rhoda (Peck) Todd. He prepared at John C. Overhiser's School, Brooklyn, New York. He studied at Columbia University from 1870 to 1872, then at Amherst College from 1873 to 1875, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in the class of 1875. He earned his M.A. from Amherst in 1878. He was awarded an honorary degree from Washington and Jefferson College in 1888.

Todd worked at the US Naval Observatory from 1875 to 1878, and at the US Nautical Almanac Office from 1878 to 1881. From 1881 to 1917 he was a professor of astronomy and director of the observatory at Amherst College, and from 1917 onward he was professor emeritus there. From 1882 to 1887, he was also a professor of astronomy and higher mathematics at nearby Smith College.

Todd married Mabel Loomis on March 5, 1879, and had one daughter, Millicent. His wife had had an affair with William Austin Dickinson, the (married) brother of Emily Dickinson. The affair was an open secret in Amherst, and David Todd seems to have accepted it willingly. A collection of the two lovers' letters were published in Austin and Mabel: The Amherst Affair & Love Letters of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd (ISBN 0-374-10716-5).

Astronomical and other accomplishments

Todd designed and erected several observatories, including those at Smith College from 1886 to 1888 and at Amherst College from 1903 to 1906. He established Standard Time in Peru in 1907. He was chief astronomer at the Lick Observatory during the transit of Venus in 1882, and created the first known photographs of the transit.

He was a member of the American Astronomical Society, the Philosophical Society of Washington, and the Japan Society. He was fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Natural and Physical Sciences, Cherbourg, France; the Sociedad Geografica de Lima, Peru. In 1896 he was presented, by the Emperor of Japan, with the Imperial Saké Cup for services in the cause of education in Japan.

In addition, Todd was the organizer and leader of a number of important astronomical expeditions:

The New England expedition to Texas for solar eclipse of July 29, 1878

The American expedition to Japan for solar eclipse of August 19, 1887

A U. S. scientific expedition to West Africa in 1889 and 1890

The Amherst expedition to Japan for the solar eclipse of August 9, 1896

The Lowell expedition to Tripoli for solar eclipse of May 28, 1900

The Amherst eclipse expedition to the Dutch East Indies in 1901

The Lowell Mars expedition to the Andes, 1907

Expedition to Tripoli for the solar eclipse of August 30, 1905

Expedition to Russia for solar eclipse of August 21, 1914

Expedition to Florida for solar eclipse of June 8, 1918

Expedition to Brazil and Argentina for solar eclipse of May 29, 1919

Todd crater on Phobos (a satellite of Mars) is named after him. In addition, asteroids 511 Davida and 510 Mabella are named after him and his wife.


Astronomy: The Science of the Heavenly Bodies. New York: Harper, 1922.

Todd was also the author of New Astronomy; Stars and Telescopes, and many shorter articles. He also edited the Columbian Knowledge Series.

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David Peck Todd's Timeline

Age 84