Astronomers: Cornwall

Adams, John Couch [FRAS; FRS] (1819-1892), born Lidcot, nr. Launceston, through his earlier education he won a scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge. Elected a fellow at his college he best known as the astronomer who co-discovered the planet Neptune and its associated controversy (ODNB; Obit., MNRAS, 53 (1893), 184-209).

Dunkin, Edwin [FRAS; FRS] (1821-1898), born Truro, the son of William Dunkin. After his family moved to London, he joined the Royal Observatory Greenwich as a computer, following the career of his father. Through his abilities as a practical astronomer and skills in mathematic he progressed at Greenwich becoming Chief Assistant.  Active in the RAS, sitting on the council he authored several books on popular astronomy (ODNB; Obit., MNRAS, 59 (1899), 221-5).

Fox, Wilson Lloyd [FRMS] (fl. 1907-1922), observer at the Falmouth (meteorological) Observatory run by the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society. He also had an interest in astronomy observing lunar occultation using a 3-inch refractor at his home ‘Carmino’ in Falmouth (Stroobant 1907, 82).

Gilbert, Davies  [Giddy] (6 Mar. 1767 – 24 Dec. 1839), born St. Erth, Cornwall. As a child he was taught by astronomer Malachy Hitchins for a couple of years, while his father was curate of St. Erth Cornwall – became president of the Royal Society 1791.  He sat on the Board of Visitors for the Royal Observatory Greenwich and within this role fell out with Astronomer Royal Pond.  As member of Board of Longitude he was instrumental in the establishment of the Royal observatory at the Cape of Good Hope (Laurie ,1966 1966QJRAS…7…169L).  By 1830 he also sat on the committee of the Astronomical Society of London – later the Royal Astronomical Society.

Haslam, John Horsley (1850-1904), born at Baldhu Parsonage, Cornwall.  He went to college at Cambridge and was curate at Wansteed Essex followed by positions at Birmingham, Gravesend and London.  At these locations he erected an observatory as he had a passion for science and astronomy.  He often lectured on the subject and was elected to the Royal Society in 1902 (Obit., MNRAS, 65 (4) (1905, 336-7).

Haydon, Richard [Rev.] (1706-1788), born Cornwall (?), graduated Pembroke College, Cambridge, later master of Liskeard Grammer School. Known for his profound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he possessed various instruments that he used to observe the 1762 transit of Venus.

Hitchins, Malachy (1741-1809), born Little Trevince Gwennap, who is thought to have first worked as a miner then land surveyor. Later he graduated from Exeter College, Oxford (1763) and was appointed computer for the compiling of the Nautical Almanac. In 1769 he was appointed assistant to, Nevil Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, making observations of the 1769 transit of Venus (ODNB; Kennett 2017).  Computers working for Malachy Hitichins

Lindley, William Maximilian (1891-1972) [FRAS], born Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, educated at Sherborne School, Dorset graduating in engineering from Trinity College, Cambridge. While pursuing a career in engineering. Following service in the Royal Engineers during WWI, he worked at Derby before moving to Trevone, Cornwall in 1924.  Joining both the RAS and BAA he took up variable star observation using a 5 1/2-inch Cooke refractor. He became the director of the BAA observing section (Obit., JBAA, 83 (1973), 201-3; Shears 2012b; Stroobant 1931).

Lower, Sir William (1570 – 1615), resided St. Willow, Cornwall and MP for Bodmin.  Pupil of astronomer Thomas Harriot, he made observations of comets, sunspots and the moon. See Biography online  and survey page for Carmarthenshire,Wales page

Robartes [Roberts], Francis [FRS] (1649/50-3 Feb. 1718), MP for Lanhydrock  MP.  He had an interest in astronomy, although his main scientific interests lay elsewhere.  Robartus wrote a paper (dated on 8 Nov. 1693) for Phil. Trans titled ‘Concerning the distances of fixed stars’. He also acted as one of the referees  for Flamsteed’s Star catalogue and readying it for publication and monetary remuneration.

Skinner, Frederick (1860-1927), born Falmouth who worked both at the Falmouth and Bidston observatories, regulating ship chronometers. At Bidston as senior assistant he operated both the meridian instrument and the equatorial telescope under John Hartnup, junior and later William E. Plummer (see Cheshire; Scoffield 2006, 127-30).

Somer, John (d. after 1409), Franciscan friar and astronomer.  Before 1384 he was warden of the priory at Bodmin in Cornwall, from at least and was attached to the Oxford convent (1380-95).  It was at the request of Thomas Kingsbury, the provincial minister of the Franciscans in England, that in 1380 he composed his Kalendarium for Joan of Kent (d. 1385), the mother of Richard II.  A calendar with astronomical tables attached, covering the four Metonic (nineteen-year) cycles for the period (1387 – 1462).  The work survives in thirty-two complete and eight fragmentary copies. A manuscript at Cambridge Peterhouse, MS 75.I, fol. 63V show Astronomical calculations headed by his name.  Somer was still living on 10 October 1409 when he last collected his royal grant, but he would have died soon after. The Kalendarium is cited in Chaucer within Treatise on the Astrolabe.  A star catalogue cited by John Bale and attributed to Somer called ‘Castigation of former Calendars collected from many sources’ (Bale, Cat., 7.viii) is now lost (ODNB)

Tolson, Jospeh (d. 31st May 1798), teacher of astronomy and lunar navigation within Falmouth. In May 1785 he petitioned the Board of Longitude describing how he has taught within Falmouth many pupils the lunar methods and condensed the methodology.  He fears that these pupils will take issue with the Board and try and pass off his reduced methodology as their own.  RGO 12/14

Vyvyan, Sir Richard  [FRS] (1800-1879), born at Trelowarren Cornwall. He was primarily an MP, educated at Harrow and Christ Church Oxford.  In 1826 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society with regards to his natural history and geological interests, but he was also known to have an interest in astronomy.   He was patron of Charles Thomas Pearce, whom he initially employed as his secretary in 1843.  They undertook research into light, heat and magnetism of the moons rays.  A journal of astronomy musings are held at the records office, Truro (Ref . V/FC/13).  Also held at the records office in Truro are letters between himself and Annarella the wife of William Henry Smyth and mother of Charles Piazzi Smyth the future astronomer royal for Scotland.  In them is a description of the 1858 comet, Halley’s comet (1835) and a poem written by W.H. Smyth called ‘Double Star’ which is mostly regarding astronomy (ODNB).

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