However, there was nothing amateur about Leslie’s skills or knowledge of astronomy. Harvard astronomer and co-founder of the Astronomical League, Dr. Harlow Shapley, described Leslie Peltier as "world's greatest non-professional astronomer". He discovered a comet on November 13, 1925 and during his lifetime, he discovered eleven more comets, two novae, and contributed over 132,000 observations to American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). From the age of 18 until his death at age 80, he never missed sending in a monthly report to the AAVSO.
He wrote two books about his life, The Place on Jennings Creek and Starlight Nights and several books about astronomy, including a guide used by many professional astronomers worldwide. His love of those astronomical objects so far away in the night skies began at the age of five when his mother, Resa pointed out the constellation, Pleiades, to him on one clear, winter night. A book from the library started his thirst for knowledge about what was in the sky so far away.
Leslie Peltier was born on a small farm bordering the Auglaize River east of Delphos on January 2, 1900. When he was a teen, he earned $18 picking strawberries and used the money to purchase a small telescope from a mail order catalog. A few years later, he was able to borrow a better telescope and he and his father set up a small observatory in their cow pasture.
On November 13, 1925, Leslie saw "something" in a cluster of stars. He plotted the location and telephoned the Delphos telegram station. It was closed, leaving the signal tower at the Pennsylvania Railroad station as his only other option. He rode into town in the dark on his bicycle and sent a telegram to the Harvard College Observatory which was answered a week later stating that he had discovered a new comet.
As an adult, Leslie’s full time occupation was a designer at the Delphos Bending Company, which made furniture and toys from “bent” wood. In 1937, Leslie used his skills to design and build his Merry-Go-Round observatory. For the first time ever, anywhere, an entire observatory rotated to follow the stars. In 1959, Miami University was planning to raze their observatory and Leslie was able to obtain it to replace his tiny one. When I was growing up, I remember this observatory that stood in his yard. For the next 20 years, he host thousands of interested stargazers and school children to let them scan the night sky with him in his observatory.
In 1966, Leslie was a contestant on the quiz show, “To Tell the Truth”. Although, I didn’t really know him, he was related and my mom knew him well and we, like many others in Delphos, watched our local celebrity on the national TV show.
During his life, he made many discoveries and achieved many accomplishments. He was bestowed with many honors and awards but to him, it was not about the honors or awards but the contentment of knowing what he contributed to the science of astronomy.
Leslie had dropped out of school after the tenth grade to work on his father's farm. In 1974, he received an honorary high school diploma from Delphos Jefferson High School and received an honorary doctorate from Bowling Green State University. In 1965, he even had a mountain in California named after him. The home of Ford Observatory was named Mt. Peltier.
Not only was he showered with honors, an award was named after him. In 1980, the Astronomical League established The Leslie C. Peltier Award to be presented to an amateur astronomer who contributed to astronomy observations of lasting significance.
In front of the Delphos Public Library on whose Board Leslie had served from 1947 to 1980 stands a historical marker put up by the Ohio Historical Society. On March, 24, 2005, the city council declared November 13, the 80th anniversary of the discovery of the first Peltier comet, as “Leslie C. Peltier Day” in Delphos, Allen County, Ohio and his hometown of Delphos honored his life with a memorial sun dial monument on the library’s grounds. On June 10, 2018, Leslie Peltier was posthumously inducted into the Delphos Jefferson High School Hall of Honor.
Leslie Copus Peltier was born to Stanley William and Resa (Copus) Peltier on January 2, 1900. He had one brother, Kenneth and one sister, Dorothy. On November 25, 1933, he married Dorothea M. Nihiser. They had two sons.
Many people are still interested in the life and the accomplishments of Leslie Peltier. Many articles are online about him and photos of him, the historical marker, and the monument and reprints of his autobiography on Amazon. There is even a Facebook page about him where people can learn about him from people who knew and remember him.
Those starry, starry nights. Little specks of light in the sky so far away. Who knew what great things were in store for the small boy whose mother pointed out a constellation to him.