Astronomers: Aberdeenshire

Copland, Patrick (1748-1822), founder of Castle Observatory, Marischal College.

Gill, David (1843-1914), born at 48 Skene Terrace, Aberdeen, educated at the Dollar Academy, and two years at Aberdeen University. In 1872 he was appointed director to establish Lord Lindsay’s new Dun Echt Observatory. In 1877 he used observations of Mars to redetermine solar parallax. In 1879 he went to South Africa as H.M. Astronomer at the Cape until 1906, and turned a run-down facility into an outstanding modern observatory. In 1882 his photograph from South Africa of the comet revealed many background stars, and demonstrated the potential for mapping the stars by photography (ODNB; Haley 2014; Haley 2016).

Gregory, James (1638-1675), born Aberdeen, mathematician and inventor of the reflecting telescope that he never made. Published details in Optica Promota in 1663.  In London he had hoped to find a craftsman able to make the mirrors to his specification, but those by Reive failed.  It was Robert Hooke, to whom Gregory had been introduced, who made the first successful telescope and presented it in 1674 to the Royal Society. In 1668 was appointed first professor of mathematics at St Andrews and then planned the first modern observatory in Britain that was completed in 1672. Gregory was then appointed professor in Edinburgh in 1674 , but died the next ‘of a sudden illness accompanied by blindness, which befell him as he was observing the Satellites of Jupiter in company with his students at Edinburgh’ (ODNB; Turnbull 1938).

Lamont, Johann [von] (1805-1879), born John at Corriemulzie near Inverey, where he lived until his father died in 1817 and was then sent to the Benedictine monastery at Ratisbon near Munich to complete his education. Later he took-up astronomy joining the nearby Bogenhausen  observatory, being appointed assistant and later director of the institution. He achieved a degree at Munich University and was later appointed professor.  He is best remembered for his work on magnetism but nearly uncovered Neptune by chance in 1845 (Obit., MNRAS, 40 (1880), 208-12 ; Hockey 2007).

Lindsay, James Ludovic, twenty-sixth earl of Crawford (1847-1913), founder of Dun Echt Observatory, near Aberdeen, which flourished for 20 years. In 1888 Lord Lindsay heard that the British government intended to close the Royal Edinburgh Observatory. He saved it by offering to donate the entire equipment of his Dun Echt Observatory. This was accepted, and the new ROG was completed upon Blackford Hill in 1896 (see ODNB).

Mackay, Andrew (fl.1780s-1790s), observer and ‘Assistant keeper’ (1780s-90s) at the Castle Hill Observatory.

Smith, Charles Michie (1854-1922), born Keig, Aberdeen, he was educated in Aberdeen and Edinburgh where he took his degree in 1876.  In the same year he gained the position of Prof. of Physics at the Christian College, Madras in India.  Fifteen years later he succeeded Norman Pogson as director of the Madras Observatory a post he held until 1922 when John Evershed took over the role.  His most notable achievement was the establishment of the hilltop observatory at Kodaikanal where solar observations were followed with installation of a high resolution spectrograph and a spectroheliograph on the Hale model (see Obit., MNRAS, 83 (1923), 245-6).

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