Astronomers: Northumberland

Acfield, Frank J. (1905-1975), born Southampton he trained and worked in the woollen industry, moving to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1936. Using a 10-inch reflecting telescope housed in an observatory erected in his garden Acfield undertook extensive celestial photography.  In addition, he was a tireless astronomy populariser giving several lectures a week.  In 1970 the ‘Sky at Night’ series, hosted by Patrick Moore, was devoted to his observatory at Forest Hall, Newcastle (Gooch 1979).

Airy, George Biddell (1801-1892), born Alnwick, Northumberland, educated Trinity College, Cambridge, professor and director of the Cambridge Observatory 1826-35. The well known inefficiency of the Royal Observatory stimulated Airy to make Cambridge an exemplar. He became a powerful and influential Astronomer Royal 1835-81 (ODNB; Royal Observatory, Greenwich).

Atkinson, Henry (1781-1829), born in West Harle, Northumberland.  Educated by his schoolmaster father, he took over his father’s due at the age of 13.  In 1808 he moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in and continued to teach.   In 1809 Atkinson joined the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society where he presented numerous papers including astronomical topics.  He also had papers presented at the Royal Astronomical Society, which included an instrument he contrived to illustrate some of the phenomena of rotation. Atkinson was also a leading figure in the Newcastle Unitarian church.  He died of lung disease at his Newcastle home (see ODNB).

Richardson, Lawrence (1870-fl.1931 ), born Elswick, Newcastle-upon-Tyne who trade was leather manufacturer in the same city.  A keen double star observer, he devised a diffraction micrometer that he used in conjunction with a 4 1/2-inch refractor from his home Stoneham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Stroobant 1931; Richardson 1925).

Riddle, Edward (1788–1854 born at Troughend in Northumberland. After receiving basic mathematical training locally he took up the role of schoolmaster at Shielyfield, Northumberland, then at Newcastle.  On the recommendation of Dr Charles Hutton he gained the post of master (1821) of the upper mathematical school at the Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich until retirement in 1851.  His most significant published work was Treatise on Navigation and Nautical Astronomy (1824). His son John was headmaster Greenwich Hospital schools (see ODNB).

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