Astronomers: Surrey

Barclay, Arthur Kett (1806-1871), born Harrow, Middlesex, cousin of Joseph Gurney Barclaya and brewer.  He developed a keen interest in astronomy establishing an observatory at his home in Norbury nr, Croydon then in the grounds of Bury Hill House, Dorking (Obit., MNRAS, 31 (1871), 103-4).

Birt, William Radcliff (1804–1881), FRAS,  a British amateur astronomer and selenographer. He was a son of Surrey, but did his observing in Essex (see Essex page), and briefly at the Hartwell Observatory, Buckinghamshire.

Bray, Robert John (1929-), born in Richmond, Surrey, on 14 March 1929. University of Oxford (BA 1952, MA 1956, DPhil 1956). He moved to Australia in 1956 to join the CSIRO Division of Physics, where he became Chairman of the Australian Astronomy and Space Exploration Liaison Group 1983-86 and Australian representative, Large Earth-Based Solar Telescope Foundation [LEST] from 1984. His field of research was solar spectroscopy.[Prof. Fred Rost, SHA CD].

Brook (nee Brook), Ruth Mary (18561932), born Meltham, Kirklees, West Yorks., who married Arthur Brook and was sister to Charles Lewis Brook. An Interest in astronomy is indicated her joining the BAA in 1900. Brook was an active council member, made contributions and observations as well as participating in the 1900 BAA solar eclipse expedition to Morocco (Maunder 1901; Death Notice JBAA, 43 (1933), p.402).

Capron, John Rand (1829-1888) was born on 19th February 1829 in King Street (now Rufus Street), Hoxton Square, Shoreditch London. He was the son of a leather merchant. By 1841 he had moved to Guildford and was attending the Royal Grammar School. He was living with his uncle John Rand, the solicitor, in Quarry Street, opposite St. Mary’s Church. Capron’s observatory was built between 1867 and 1870 at his new home on the outskirts of the town. No record of the constructors seems to have survived but it may have been built by the local firm Thomas and James Loe, who completed Capron’s new home in January 1867. Capron described owning an 8.5 inch Browning reflector mounted on an equatorial axis in “Nature” (vol. 3, page 28, November 10, 1870). The smallest telescope in the observatory was a 3.25 inch Cooke refractor which was mentioned in Capron’s article in “The Observatory” (vol. 1, no. 7, page 216, July 1877). Capron also described owning a 6 inch Cooke refractor which was also mounted on an equatorial axis (“The Observatory”, vol. 2, no. 17, page 160, August 1878). At various times between 1870 and 1888 the observatory also housed a collection of spectroscopes, including three manufactured by John Browning and one by Adam Hilger, the London-based scientific instrument makers. Capron made many astronomical, auroral and spectroscopic observations from his observatory, and a few from a nearby folly, Booker’s Tower. His most important (non) observations were probably his fruitless photographic search for the alleged Planet Vulcan over 21st, 22nd and 23rd March 1877 (MNRAS, vol. 37, pages 348-349, April 1877).Capron also viewed a number of lunar eclipses (February 27th and August 23rd, 1877), the transit of Saturn’s shadow (September 1877) and various comets. Capron was probably best known for his auroral and spectroscopic work. He was admitted to the Royal Astronomical Society on 9th March 1877 and was elected to Council on 9th February 1883. He continued making astronomical observations until at least 1886, resigned from council in February 1888 and died at Eastbourne, Sussex, on 12th November 1888. The observatory still survives, in very good condition, but it has proved impossible to trace any of the three telescopes or other scientific instruments. (Information supplied by Paul Fuller)

Carrington, Richard Christopher (1826-1875), was Observer at the University of Durham Observatory (1849–1852) where he did good work but failed to gain essential new instruments (see Roger Hutchins, British University Observatories 1772-1939 (Ashgate, 2008). He left and in 1855 established his own observatory at Redhill, in Surrey. He was a pioneer observer of Sun. In 1859 he made the first observation of a solar flare (‘Carrington’s Flare’, also observed independently by R. Hodgson). In 1860 he was the first to note that the differential rotation of sunspots, known for a long time, was systematic, rotation at the equator being more rapid than on either side. The differential rates were first measured by Dunér. He also showed that the mean latitude of spots varies systematically during a cycle, a result obtained independently by Sporer (whose name is now attached to the phenomenon). After he closed his Redhill Observatory erected a new on at Churt nr. Farnham (ODNBObit., MNRAS, 36 (1876), 137-42Clark 2007).

Demainbray, Stephen Charles Triboudet (1710-1782), King’s Astronomer to  King George III (1768-82) – King’s Observatory, Richmond Park (ODNB).

Demainbray, Stephen George Francis Triboudet (1759-1854), King’s Astronomer to  King George III  (ODNB) – see King’s Observatory.

Doberck, William [Dr; FRAS] (1852-1941), born Copenhagen, Denmark, educated in the city and later receiving a doctorate from the German University of Jena in 1873.  He worked at the  Pulkovo Observatory, St Petersburg before being appointed director at the Martree Observatory (1874-82), County Sligo in the west of Ireland.  Later he was the director of the Hong Kong Observatory (1883-1907). Retiring at the age of 55 he moved to Sutton, Surrey where he established a private gentleman’s observatory named Kowloon and furbished with a 7 1/4-inch Cooke refractor undertaking double star observations (Stroobant 1931; MacKeowen 2007).

Doberck, Anna Nielsin (1878-1950), born Copenhagen, Denmark.  Sister of Dr W. Doberck who worked as his assistant at Martree Observatory, Ireland (1874-82), Hong Kong Observatory (1883-1907) and his private Kowloon Observatory at Sutton, Surrey (Stroobant 1931; MacKeowen 2007).

Evershed, John (1864-1956), born Gomshall, educated in Brighton and Croydon who first worked as a chemist.  Interested in astronomy from an early age, he was a keen solar observer and a founder member of the British Astronomical Association. Later, on the recommendation of William Huggins, he was appointed assistant director at the Kodaikanal Observatory, India in 1909. Here he discovered the radial circulation of gases in sunspots (Evershed Effect), for which he was elected to the Royal Society in 1915.  On retirement in 1923 he left India and moved to Ewhurst, Surrey where he set up a private observatory and built a large spectroheliograph with high-dispersion liquid prism. Here he continued his studies until 1950 when he closed the observatory and presented some of its instruments Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux (ODNB ; Obit., MNRAS, 117 (1957), 253-4).

Evershed [née Orr], Mary Acworth (1867–1949), born Plymouth Hoe and was educated at home.  A literary scholar, she developed an early interest in astronomy, meeting the astronomer John Tebbutt whilst living in Sydney, Australia.  Later, back in Britain she joined the British Astronomical Association by 1891 becoming a serious amateur astronomer. It was through a BAA expedition to Norway in 1896, to view a solar eclipse in that she met her husband John Evershed (1864-1956). Moving with him to India, when he was appointed to the Kodaikanal Observatory, where she assisted him with hi solar spectral work, she undertook research into the astronomy of Dante. Her later interest focussed upon the general history of astronomy and was instrumental in the formation of the historical section of the BAA (ODNB; Obit., MNRAS, 110 (1950), 128-9-4).

Graham-Smith, Sir Francis (1923– ), FRS, English Radio Astronomer, Director of the RGO (1976–1981) and Astronomer Royal (1982–1990). A son of Surrey, but not an observer here. Smith was born at Roehampton, in Surrey, on 25 April 1923. He studied at Downing College, Cambridge, his PhD. 1952, was for work in radio astronomy at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. After a year at the Carnegie Institute in Washington, DC, Smith returned to At Cambridge where he worked in radio astronomy 1954-64, before moving to Jodrell Bank for the next ten years. In 1974 he moved to the Royal Greenwich Observatory (then still at Herstmonceux in Sussex), and the next year he also became a visiting professor in astronomy at the nearby University of Sussex. In 1976, Smith became the first radio astronomer to become director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory; and he played a major part in the choice of the site for what became the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory and in the early stages of its development He moved back to Jodrell Bank as its director in 1981, and in 1982 he was appointed Astronomer Royal in succession to Sir Martin Ryle. He was therefore the first (and so far only) person since 1971 to he both director of the RGO and Astronomer Royal, although he did not hold the two positions at the same time. He retired as Astronomer Royal in 1990. As well as being one of the key figures in the development of radio astronomy techniques, such as interferometry, and an able administrator, Smith has made important contributions to the study of pulsars, and to the investigation of the magnetic fields in interstellar space. [From Prof. Fred Rost, SHA CD].

Hargreaves, Frederick James [FRAS] (1871-1970), born in Bradford, ‘Jim’ was BAA Photographic Section Director (1926 – 1937) and president (1942-44).  Director of Cox, Hargreaves & Thompson. A  telescope manufacturing business  (from 1947), set up to supply large instruments that operated from a Second World War underground air raid shelter in Coulsden, Surrey – company wound up in 1978. Featured in a Pathe News Reel film. company wound up in 1978. Wrote the book ‘Measure of the Universe’ in 1948 (see Yorkshire; West Riding; Stroobant 1931Obit., QJRAS, 12 (1971), 336-7).

Jeans, Sir James Hopwood (1877-1946), resided at West Humble – see Lancashire

Lockyer, Sir John Norman (1836-1920), lived in Wimbledon where he established an Observatory – see Devon; County of London & Warwickshire).

Maloney, Francis Joseph Terence (1917-2008), born Mortlake, Surrey, writer and illustrator who developed an passion for astronomy. After fighting on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War he served in the Signal Corp during World War II.  After the hostilities  Maloney settled in Kew where he observed with a telescope until the upgrading of streetlights from gas made observation near impossible.  Member of both the British Astronomical Society and the Royal Astronomical Society (see The Guardian Obit.;  The Eagle Society Obit.).

Maw, William Henry [FRAS] (1838-1924), draughtsman and editor of the journal Engineering, a founder member of the BAA, its first Treasurer (1890-1913) and fifth President (1898-1900). He was an active double star observer with an observatory at his home in Kensington, London and his coutry seat at Outwood, Surrey (ODNB; Obit., MNRAS, 85 (1925), 311-4).

Molyneux, Samuel [FRS] (1689-1728), MP for Kew, amateur astronomer, lived at Kew House from 1721; he knew James Bradley at the Royal Society, and from 1721 worked with him on innovative telescope design, and then on observations that after Molyneux’s death led to the discovery of aberration. Bradley does full justice to Molyneux in Phil.Trans. 35, 406, p. 637 (ODNB) – see Molyneux’s Kew Observatory 

Pearson, William [Dr, Revd.] (1767-1847) – see Leicestershire & Pearson’s Observatory; ODNB).

Phillips, Theodore Evelyn Reece  [Revd.] (1868–1942), D.Sc., FRAS, English clergyman and very effective amateur astronomer from 1896 to 1942, noted for his studies of Jupiter, at Headley, Surrey. See: Sky & Telescope, Aug 1942 (1,10) p.16; and Hedley Observatory A graduate of St Edmund Hall college, Oxford. Appointed curate at Hendford, near Yeovil in Somerset, in 1896 he commenced observations of Mars and Jupiter using a 9¼-inch reflector. He took that instrument with him to Croydon, then Ashstead in Surrey, where he latterly had a 12¼-inch reflector. In 1911 the RAS lent him an 8-inch refractor. In 1916 he was appointed Rector of Hedley, Surrey, and erected an observatory there. An 18-inch With reflector was lent by the BAA, and with it he concentrated on the atmosphere of Jupiter, in the process recording more than 30,000 transits of Jovian satellites. He also observed Mars and Saturn. Phillips held several high offices in the BAA. In 1942 an honorary D.Sc. was conferred upon him by Oxford University in recognition of his contributions to astronomy (Davidson 1942).  From 1937-41 Phillips had the company of his friend and neighbour Percy Ryves, a keen Mars observer (Obit., MNRAS, 103 (1943), 70-2).

Rigaud, Stephen Peter (1774-1839), born Richmond, Surrey. Savilian professor at Oxford, and joint Observer 1814-39 at the King’s Observatory, Richmond assisting his uncle Rev. Demainbray (ODNB) – see Radcliffe Observatory; King’s Observatory, Richmond.

Ryves, Percy Mayow (1881-1956), born Cheadle, Staffordshire, an amateur astronomer whose prime interests were the planet Mars and variable stars. For some years he lived in Spain before returning to Britain due to the Spanish Civil War.  Moving to Epsom he observed from Rev. T.E.R. Phillips Headley Observatory (McKim 2018). 

Sabine, Sir Edward [Major-General] (1788–1883), FRS, FRAS, British army officer, geodesist and astronomer of Irish origin, but lived and died at East Sheen, Surrey. He was appointed astronomer of the expeditions commanded by Ross and Parry in search of the North-West Passage in 1818 and 1819. The greater part of his life was devoted to researches on terrestrial magnetism. The establishment of magnetic observatories in various parts of British territory all over the globe was accomplished mainly on his representations. He discovered (1852) a connection between the periodic variation of sunspots and magnetic disturbances on the earth. The following year, Sabine also made a similar correlation with the Moon, establishing that that celestial body too had an influence on the Earth’s magnetic field. He concluded that the Moon must have a significant magnetic field of its own to cause such an effect. But for once he was mistaken: the effect is actually the result of gravitational tides in the ionosphere. Sabine was director of the Kew Observatory, and president of the Royal Society from 1861–1871; received the Copley medal of that Society in 1821 and the Royal medal in 1849; and was made K.C.B. in 1869. He died at East Sheen, Surrey, on June 26. 1883. [Encycl Britt 14th]. A lunar crater has been named in his honour (see ODNB).

Simmonds, George Hervey (1836-1921), assistant to Richard Carrington at his Redhill Observatory in observing, reducing and publishing the Redhill Catalogue which gained Carrington the RAS Gold Medal (Hutchins 2017).

Simms, William (1793-1860), the famed instrument maker, with observatory at his home ‘Bramblehaw’ Carshalton (ODNB; Obit., ProcICE, 1861).

Stewart, Balfour (1828-1887), superintendent of the Kew Observatory (1859-71) – see ODNB.

Thorrowgood, William John (1862-1928), of Wimbledon, Surrey.  The last private but brief owner of the famed 8-inch Cooke refractor and observatory at his home, first owned by Dawes, and then by Maw and the RAS who loaned it to the IoA (Obit., MNRAS, 89 (1929), p.329; Obit., ProICE, 1929).

Thwaites , Christopher (1840-1929), born  in Holborn, London, he was educated at Uxbridge, Brighton then at King’s College, London, studying engineering. During his school days in Brighton, the headmaster first kindled his interest in astronomy. Although he left no formal observations in print, he observed the nebula of Orion and found there was no variation in its intensity. Thwaites worked in the railway industry in Ireland and on water supply projects in India. In 1870 he was a consultant engineer in Westminster and eventually set-up a private practice in Norwich.   With retirement in 1896 Thwaites moved to Epsom in Surrey and then travelled to India in 1898 with a 4.5-inch Cooke refractor to observe the solar eclipse. He continued his observations of the sun and made both observations and undertook photographic work until his death (Obit,. MNRAS, 90 (1930), p.381).

Waterfield, Reginald Lawson (1910-1986), born Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, educated at Winchester school and trained as a doctor at Guys Hospital, London. In parallel with his medical career he had life-long interest in astronomy. Starting with a 3-inch refractor he had access to larger telescopes including 25-cm Cooke refractor at Four Marks Observatory and 6-inch refractor owned by J. Player at Thirlesmere Hall, Cheltenham.  The latter instrument, he was later to own, when it was located at Headley, Surrey at the observatory of the Revd. T.E.R Phillips -see Surrey observatories.  Later in 1949, after suffering Poliomyelitis, which left him wheelchair-bound he moved the Player Telescope to Silwood Park, Sunninghill, Surrey – campus outstation of Imperial College, London.  In 1968 his observatory was moved to Woolston, North Cadbury in Somerset.  A keen observer of Mars, comets and solar eclipses, he was president and vice president of the BAA and RAS respectively (Obit.,QJRAS, 28 [4] (1987), 544-6).

Watson, Harry J. [Lieut-Col.] (1850-1918), born Cossepore, Bengal in India following a military career in the 11th Hussars. He first settled at Langley, Berks before moving to moving to ‘Deramore’, Camberley.  Here he followed his passion for astronomy erecting an observatory to house various telescopes including a 13-inch reflector to observe the Moon (Obit., MNRAS, 79 (1919), p.234; Stroobant 2007, 51).

White, James Leslie (1911–2002), FRAS, British watchmaker and amateur astronomer, president of the British Astronomical Association 1978–1980, assistant secretary (1970–1978); acting librarian (1973–1978) and librarian (1978–1988).  He received the BAA’s Lydia Brown medal and gift in 1974. Obituary, JBAA 113, 56 (2003). After 1945 he became a watchmaker and! repairer, and ran a shop in Ewell, Surrey. He took a keen and active interest in astronomy. He lectured regularly at Morley College in London, where he built a planetarium in the church next door. He also gave regular talks to astronomical, societies in Brighton, Worthing and Southampton, and at Ewell Technical College (now NESCOT) in the 1950s and 1960s as well as astronomical weekends in various locations. He was a member of Ewell Astronomical Society from the early 1970s, becoming an Honorary Member, and attended meetings regularly. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1948. and contributed many articles to their Journal. In 1965 he was invited by the Daily Telegraph to write articles on astronomy, and he gave up-to-date information on the planets and other objects which could be viewed monthly (Obit.,  JBAA, 113 (2003), p.56.)

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