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Jan 13, 2006 7:40 pm

How Did Pluto Get Its Name?

Venetia Phair isn't a name that immediately springs to mind when you mention astronomy.

But the retired teacher from Epsom in Surrey has left an indelible signature on our map of the Solar System.

Now 87 years of age, Venetia Phair (née Burney) is the only person in the world who can claim to have named a planet.

In 1930, at just 11 years of age, Mrs Phair suggested the title Pluto for the newly discovered ninth planet. ...

The name proposed by the then Oxford schoolgirl was seized upon at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where the planet was discovered by young American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.

"I was quite interested in Greek and Roman myths and legends at the time," Mrs Phair told the BBC News website. ...

On the morning of 14 March 1930, the young Venetia Burney was sitting down to breakfast in the dining room of the house in north Oxford where she lived with her grandfather Falconer Madan.

Mr Madan, who was retired as librarian at the Bodleian Library, was with her reading The Times newspaper.

When he got to an article on page 14 about the new planet's discovery, he remarked on it to Venetia. ...

"I can still visualise the table and the room, but I can remember very little about the conversation," Mrs Phair said.

The article mentioned that the planet had not yet been named, prompting Venetia Burney to suggest her own.

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