Edmond Halley (1656-1742) lived in a modest house in New College Lane. Halley showed a keen interest in astronomy from his earliest years. According to John Aubrey: "He went to Paule's schoole to Dr Gale: while he was there he was very perfect in the caelestiall Globes in so much that I heard Mr Moxton (the Globe-maker) say that if a star were misplaced in the Globe, he would presently find it." At sixteen, he went to Queen's College, Oxford, but left without a degree in 1676. However, he had already published a paper on the theory of planetary orbits. He then spent two years on St Helena mapping the southern heavens. The range of Halley's scientific interests was enormous: he did work on the variation of the earth's magnetic field, the variation of barometric pressure with height, the salinity and evaporation of oceans, and the optics of the rainbow. He also translated the geometrical works of Apollonius and even reconstructed a missing section. Without him, Newton's Principia would not have existed, for it was Halley who pressed Newton to publish and who paid for the printing himself.

Today Halley is best known for the discovery of the periodic orbit of the comet named after him and his prediction of its return. In 1705 he identified the comet of 1531 with those of 1607 and 1682, and predicted its return in 1758, some years after his death.

In 1703 Halley was elected to the Savilian Chair of Geometry at Oxford and ended his career as Astronomer Royal. He died in 1742 after drinking a glass of wine against his doctor's orders. He was eighty-six.