Astronomers: Nottinghamshire

Almond, Robert White [Revd.] (1786-1853), rector of St Peter’s Church in Nottingham (1814-1853). Keen amateur astronomer and friend of Nottingham mathematician and mill owner, George Green. Set up a private Library in Nottingham – Bromley House – which promoted the sciences and is still in use today (Cox 2008, 29).

Andrews, Henry. B. (? – d.1806), born Grantham, died Bingham 1806. Cambridge astronomer (no known records).

Bush, Thomas William (1839-1928), Nottingham baker and amateur astronomer. Stole the show at the 1870 Working Men’s Exhibition in London with his 13-inch equatorially mounted reflector. Given a gold medal, a solar eyepiece and a spectroscope by GB Airy, Astronomer Royal. Built an Observatory at home ‘Mapperley’, Nottingham (1876). In 1889 became Lord Forester’s astronomer at Willey Park in Shropshire. He died in East Grinstead in 1928 (Obit., MNRAS, 89 (1929), p.298).

Fox, William Edwin [‘Bill’] (1898-1988), of 49 Milner Street, Newark, Notts., had a 75-mm refractor, later a 15-cm Browning reflector, and later still he borrowed a 25-cm reflector from the BAA.. Unemployed during the Depression, he was an engineer who during WWII worked on silent pumps for submarines. He went on to direct the BAA Jupiter section for more than 30 years, and became BAA President. A member of ‘Mr Barker’s Circle’, an observing group of eight men active from April 1934 to December 1938 and May 1946 to May 1948. (Obit., JBAA, 98, p.314 &QRAS 30 (1989), 123-4; see Robert Barker on Hertfordshire page and McKim 2013).

Franks, William Sadler (1851-1935) Born in Newark. From an early age he was interested in the colours of stars. He became an expert in the subject, and produced a catalogue of 3890 stars. He had a small Berthon-type observatory. In 1892 he joined Isaac Roberts at Crowborough, and contemporaries recognised that he brought considerable skill to the photographs produced at the Observatory which won public acclaim. After Roberts’s death in 1904, Franks had several limited engagements at private observatories. From 1910 until his death in 1935 at the age of 84, he was in charge of Hanbury’s Observatory at East Grinstead (Obit., MNRAS, 96 (Feb 1936), 291-2).

Goodacre, Robert (1771-1835), born in Nottingham. Schoolteacher and lecturer in astronomy in 200 towns in England and also in America. Made his own extensive astronomical apparatus. 1st lecture in Bradford in 1821 (Cox 2008a, 25-9).

Granger, Richard Francis Turney [FRAS](1900-1948), an early leader of Nottingham Astronomical Society (Obit., MNRAS, 109 (1949), 148-9; Northrop 1980).

Green, George (1793- 1731), born Sneinton, Nottingham. Miller & mathematician (Cox 2008a, 29).

Gregory, Edward [Revd.] (1744-1824), rector of Langar. Built an observatory in the grounds of his house. Discovered Comet 1793 Gregory-Mechain (C/1793 A1, 1792 II) in the evening of January 8, 1793 when observing Venus and measuring its distance from iota Aquarii (Cox 2008a, 23, 25 & 33).

Hartley, Walter Edward Tomson (1878-1935), born Skipton, Yorkshire, an assistant colliery manager who an early member of the Nottingham Astronomical Society, founded in 1921.  In the same year he was elected to the British Astronomical Association (NAS – Early History).

Harrison, Majorie Hall (1918-1986), born Nottingham, astronomer.  Studied at Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago gaining a doctorate in stellar evolution. Co-authored paper on this topic with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, George Gamow and G. Keller (WIKI: Harrison).

Herbert, John Harold (fl. 1897-1901), civil engineer resident at Mapperley Road (1897) and Hazlemont, Gregory Boulevard, both Nottingham, elected to membership of both the Royal Astronomical Society and British Astronomical Society in 1897 (‘Monthly Notices’, MNRAS, 57 (1897), p.331; ‘Notices’ JBAA, 20 (1897,) p.89).

Hind, John Russell (1823-1895), born in Nottingham – see County of London page.

Hunt, William (1873-1945), born Nottingham, a Machine Tool Engineer who was elected to the British Astronomical Association in 1897 and an early member of the Nottingham Astronomical Society that was founded in 1921 (Cox 2008a, 32).

Lane Hall, Arthur William [FRAS] (1904-1993), born Fulham London.  Joined the  the British Astronomical Association in 1926 while living in Middlesex . During the 1930s he was a BAA meteor section member having moved to Chelmsford, Essex. In 1947 he was elected to the Royal Astronomical Society, now living in Nottingham. In the same year he was Director of Observations at the Nottingham Astronomical Society -until 1952 or later (NAS Bulletin).

Lane Hall [nee Thacker],  Elizabeth Gladys  (1902-1986), born Staines, Middlesex.  Joined the  the British Astronomical Association in 1928 being proposed by Arthue W. Lane Hall.  She read historical papers to the BAA on Nevil Maskelyne (1932) and Charles Augustus Young with Samuel Pierpont Langley (1935). She also contributed to the BAA Historical Section Memoir ‘Who’s Who in the Moon’ (Barton).

Lowe, Alfred (? -d.1856), father of Edward Joseph Lowe (Cox 2008a, 28)

Lowe, Arthur Swann Howard [FRAS] (1826-1888), born Lenton near Nottingham, eldest son of Alfred Joseph Lowe. Whilst following a military career he pursuited scientific interests in meteorology and astronomy, in particlar assisting his brother, E.J. Lowe with his observations (Obit., MNRAS, 49 (1889), p.163).

Lowe, Edward Joseph (1825-1900), born at Highfield House, near Nottingham. A founder member of the Meteorological Society. He was a friend of Henry Lawson, and from his home in Beeston, near Nottingham, it was Lowe who in 1849 drafted the Proposal for the Establishment of a Midland Observatory, setting out the astronomical and meteorological objectives, and the scale of benefits to subscribers of different amounts. The proposal failed and Lawson gave his principal telescopes elsewhere, but his entire equipment of meteorological instruments to Lowe at Beeston, where he and his father, Alfred Lowe, had 3 observatories (Obit., MNRAS, 61 (1901), 185-6; see Monmouthshire).

Michell, John (1725-93), born in the central Notts village of Eakring. A clergyman, educated at and later a Fellow of Queen’s College, Cambridge. A natural philosopher and amateur astronomer who made the first suggestion that many double stars may be physically associated or binary systems. He was also the first astronomer to use statistical reasoning in his work. Michell is now credited with being the first to study the case of a heavenly object massive enough to prevent light from escaping (the concept of escape velocity was well known at the time). Such an object, which he called a ‘dark star’ would not be directly visible, but could be identified by the motions of a companion star if it was part of a binary system. We would now call such an object a black hole (Yorkshire: West RidingCambridgeshire; ODNB; Hutton 2006).

Mosley, Leonard (1887-?), born New Basford, Nottingham, a warehouseman at a lace factory who was elected to the British Astronomical Association in 1919 and an early member of the Nottingham Astronomical Society, founded in 1921 (NAS – Early History).

Naylor, Frederick William [Revd.] (1810-1859), born Nottingham and was undertaking double star observing in 1839 from  near Beeston, Nottingham, using a copy of William Herschel’s catalogue of double stars which he had hand transcribed – Nottinghamshire  Archives (GB 0157 : SC/15/67). He married twice [Elizabeth Milnes (c.1819-1845) and Maria Ann] and had at least three children [Elizabeth, Frederic William Barton (1848-1917), and Ellen Maria]. Naylor became vicar of the the village of Upton near Newark, Nottinghamshire in 1840.  He is buried in the church vault by the north porch of the church at St Peter and St Paul in Upton.

Northrop, David K. (1925-2002), born Bashford, Nottingham and early member of the Nottingham Astronomical Society in the 1950s. He wrote and illustrated an article in Sky & Telescope magazine in July 1980 about Nottingham observatories, replete with watercolour drawings.  In the same decade he  privately published a book of watercolour drawings of  British observatories.

Peat, Thomas (1708-1780), an eminent Nottingham mathematician and friend of Charles Wildbore (Cox 2008a, 24).

Pogson, Norman Robert (1829-1891), born  Nottingham, privately educated, and intended by his father to join the family’s hosiery business. At the age of 16 Norman fled to London, and subsisted as a teaching assistant while learning astronomy from his friend John Hind, observer at George Bishop’s Regent’s Park Observatory. Appointed in 1850 as second assistant there, despite being on a drudge’s stipend he married in 1850 Elizabeth Ambrose. Their first child was born early in 1851. Thereafter, despite his exceptional skills and potential as an astronomer, Pogson’s career was shaped by his desperate efforts to feed his rapidly growing family, and keep a step ahead of debtors.
In October 1851 Pogson became Manuel Johnson’s second assistant at the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford. There, from his garden, with the 3¾-inch refractor borrowed from John Lee, he constructed seven charts and discovered three minor planets, and ten variable stars. Pogson was one of the earliest systematic observers of variable stars. This led to his defining the photometric scale, for which he remains best known. Fleeing his debts in Oxford, and seeking better terms, in January 1859 Pogson became director of Lee’s Hartwell Observatory with its 5.9″ Smythian refractor, ideal for his variable star work, and in two years he sent 14 papers to the RAS, and several to the BAAS. In February 1860 the Pogson’s sixth child was bor. Pogson was ‘tormented by clamorous creditors’. His only hope was the vacant Radcliffe observership, but Lee withheld a testimonial, now believing him to be unbusinesslike. He fell out with Lee, and resorted to seeking and obtaining the post of government astronomer in Madras. Aware of the deadly threat of the Indian climate, Pogson left his three eldest sons with their grandparents and his sister Mary Anne in Manchester, and took their two daughters and infant son to India. In Madras, under his direction his assistant C. Ragoonatha Charry between 1862 and 1887 achieved a catalogue of 5,303 stars. Pogson concentrated on observing 134 variable stars, and discovered five more minor planets, a comet (1872), and eight variable stars. His project for 134 was too much, but his ‘invaluable’ observations of 31variables was published by Turner in 1908. Pogson’s salary was inadequate to support a family. He could not afford a home leave. In 1866 he fell ill with typhoid. His eldest son Norman arrived from England in April 1869 and assisted him for 16 months without salary. His wife Elizabeth died in November that year aged only 40, leaving eleven children. Norman died in 1874. In 1883 Pogson married the Edith Stopford, daughter of a colonel, and they had three children together, one of whom died in infancy. Pogson died at the Observatory in 1891, where his wife worked as a salaried assistant astronomer. For more detail of his extraordinary life and situation (ODNBCox 2008a, 26).

Potchett,  Mr (?), An astronomy lecturer, the only thing known about him is the following from the Quarterly Journal of Education vol 1. 1831, p. 421.   ‘At Newark, Mr Potchett, a schoolmaster from Snenton (sic), has given a series of lectures on astronomy, the whole of the mechanical apparatus, as well as the geometrical figures, used in illustration, being of his own construction. Mr Potchett having, in the course of his lectures, expressed a hope to witness the establishment of a Mechanics’ Institute, a schoolmaster in the tow was immediately offered the use of a room, and a small society was formed, the first meeting taking place on New year’s Day.’ Potchett also gave lectures at the Mechanics Institute in Nottingham ca. 1838/9. He may have been a Lincolnshire man (Cox 2008a, 26, 27&29).

Whitaker, John Vaughan [Dr] (1901-1981), born Leeds, a medical practioner and founder member of the Nottingham Astronomical Society who joined the British Astronomical Association in 1950 (Cox 2008a, 32).

White, Robert (1694-1773), Born & died at Bingham. A cripple from birth, he was nevertheless given a good education despite his humble background. An almanac compiler for the Stationers’ Company. Wrote A celestial Atlas in 1750; several editions of this are listed in the British Library catalogue, the last one dated 1840, so it was obviously a popular work. A friend of Sir Neville Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal. Asked to compile the Nautical Almanac in 1767 but declined due to his age (Cox 2008a, 23).

Whitehead, Joseph (1784-1811) Framework knitter at Sutton-in-Ashfield, and amateur astronomer. Self-taught, he made his own instruments, including a quadrant & a terrestrial globe. He also made clocks and sundials from broken knitting needles. He produced a magnificent orrery said to be one of the finest of its day. He died of pneumonia at the age of 27, said to have been caused by sleeping in a damp room (Cox 2008a, 23).

Wildbore, Charles (1737-1802), born Nottingham. Mathematician , kept an academy at Bingham. Edited the Lady’s Diary and Gentleman’s Diary. Lived at Broughton Sulney for a time as vicar. Curate of upper Broughton Church for 34 years. A genius at mental arithmetic, he wrote a paper in Martin’s Miscellaneous Correspondence to prove that the moon’s orbit was always concave with respect to the Sun. Wrote under the pen names ‘Eumenes’ or ‘Amicus’ in the Gentleman’s Magazine.
He was a reviewer for Phil Trans and a friend of mathematician Thomas Peat. Refused membership of the Royal Society (Cox 2008a, 24).