Johann von Lamont lived from 13 December 1805 to 6 August 1879. A native of Aberdeenshire, he became an eminent German astronomer. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
John Lamont was born at Inverey near the Linn of Dee, four miles west of Braemar. He was the son of a forester, Robert Lamont, and Elizabeth Ewan, and went to school locally. In 1817, Robert Lamont died and the 12 year old James was sent to complete his education at the Scots Benedictine College at St James' monastery at Ratisbon in Germany. While studying in Germany he became interested in astronomy, and subsequently worked at the Bogenhausen Observatory in Munich. Here he showed considerable natural aptitude for the subject and undertook formal studies at the University of Munich, gaining his PhD in 1830. In 1835 was appointed the Directory of the Observatory, by now having Germanised his name to Johann von Lamont. His major achievement during this period was the compilation of a catalogue of 35,000 stars.
In 1852 Lamont became Professor of Astronomy at the University of Munich. Here he did much to advance the understanding of the magnetism of the Earth, undertaking magnetic surveys across large parts of western Europe. He discovered the ten year cycle in the strength of the Earth's magnetic field. He also calculated orbits for the moons of Uranus and Saturn, and was the first to calculate the mass of Uranus. In 1845 and 1846 he briefly glimpsed Neptune, without realising it was a new planet. He was ennobled by the King of Bavaria and became a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Lamont never married, and when he died in 1879 he left his wealth to fund science scholarships. In 1934 a cairn was erected in his memory at Inverey, and there are Lamont Craters named after him on both the Moon and Mars.