The Girl Who Named Pluto

  • On March 14, 1930, 11-year-old Venetia Burney and her family were eating breakfast at their home in Oxford, England, discussing the biggest news of the day: The discovery of a new planet.
  • Venetia was well familiar with Greek and Roman mythology and further had recently been acquainted with the planets and their relative distances from the Sun during a nature walk lesson at school. As the family discussed what the new planet should be named, she said, “I think Pluto would be a good name for it.”
  • Pluto is the god of the underworld, who could make himself invisible and dwelt in a place that sunlight didn’t reach.
  • Her grandfather immediately suggested the name to a friend of his, Herbert Hall Turner, professor of astronomy at the University of Oxford, who was attending a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in London at the time.
  • At the end of May 1930, the director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff Arizona, Vesto Slipher, announced that the name of the ninth planet would be Pluto.