Asaph Hall was born in 1829, Connecticut, and studied at a rural college in McGrawville, New York. While at college, Hall met his future wife, Angeline, a teacher of mathematics. Thanks to her encouragement, he chose a career in astronomy.
After studying at the Ann Arbor Observatory in Michigan, and then spending five years at the Harvard College Observatory, Hall joined the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., as an assistant astronomer. His yearly salary of $1,000. The following year he was promoted to the senior staff, where he remained for the next three decades.
From 1875 until his retirement in 1891, Hall was in charge of the 26-inch equatorial telescope , the largest of its kind in the world. Using the scope on August 11, 1877, Hall discovered the first of the Martian moons. He later said that he had undertaken the search because he was tired of reading that Mars had no moons. A week later Hall discovered a second moon. He named his discoveries Phobos and Deimos. Hall was 48-years-old.
Hall continued his work at the Observatory until retirement. When he died, his career was described in Science as “an illustration of the possibilities open to an American boy.”
Isn’t it interesting when you consider that before 1877, your ancestors had no idea that Mars had moons?