Astronomers: Sussex

Blacklock, Arthur Woolsey (1840-1934) born in Brighton, he became a doctor after studying medicine at Aberdeen University , gaining his MD in 1872. By 1875 he had set up in practice in Gateshead, where he remained for several decades. Prior to this he lived in Manchester and whilst there joined and became a committee member of The Observing Astronomical Society. He was never a fellow of the RAS or a BAA member. He contributed correspondence to both the Astronomical Register and the English Mechanic. He owned and made several telescopes including a 5¾-inch Newtonian (Chapman 1998, 215&8).

Franks, William Sadler (1851-1935), assistant to Isaac Roberts at Crowborough Obs (see obit; H.H.Turner to Dyson, letter 27 Sept. 1915, Cambridge University Library, RGO 7, 243, RAS correspondence) and later F.J. Hanbury at his Brockhurst Estate (see below).

Hanbury, Frederick Jansen (1851-1938), millionaire associated with the pharmaceutical company Allen & Hanbury. He established an observatory with a 6 1/8-inch Cooke refractor at his extensive gardens at his Brockhurst Estate, East Grinstead (see both W.S. Franks and Sir Patrick Moore who were employed to operate the telescope (Mobberley 2013, 11-3).

Howell, Charles [FRAS](1783-1867), a gentleman of independent means.  An observer of the planets and double stars he established a well-appointed observatory at Hove, Brighton (Obit. MNRAS, 28 (1867), 2; 1861 OS Map).

Hunter, Alan (1912-1995), see County of London

Knott, George [FRAS](1835-1894), established the Cuckfield Observatory, using a powerful refract tor on doubles, variables, and planets. The value of his meticulous observations were that they were continuous by one observer using the same instrument, doubles until 1873, and variables 1859-73 and 1875-93 (obit, MNRAS, 55 (1895), 195-7).

Knox-Shaw, Harold [FRAS](1885-1970), born St Leonards-on-Sea. Trinity College, Cambridge, sixth wrangler 1907. In 1908 he became assistant at Helawan Observatory in Egypt. He returned as Radcliffe Observer, Oxford, in 1924, and, despite ill-considered opposition from the University at last managed to move the Observatory in 1935 to South Africa (see Obit., QJRAS, 12 (1971), 197-201; Oxfordshire.

Levin, Everard Arthur  [Major; FRAS] (1872-1939), born Leicester and trained as an electrical engineer.  Enlisted in the army in 1899 and served in South Africa during the Boer War.  Through his interest in computational work he was involved in setting up of the Computing Section of the BAA (1920-1921), of which he was the second director. He retired in 1928 and moved to Selsey where most of his astronomical work was undertaken, partly with a 6-inch refractor – later given to the BAA. He was elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1921 (Obit. MNRAS, 100 (1940), 253-4); Obit., JBAA, 50 (1939), 75-80; Stroobant 1931 ).

Moore, Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell- [CBE FRS., Hon. Vice-Pres. SHA] (1923-2012), born in Pinner, Middlesex.  Patrick became interested in astronomy at the age of 6 and joined the BAA at age 11 and became director of the Hanbury Observatory in 1937 aged 14. He served as a navigator with the Royal Air Force (1942-45). In the 1950s while teaching at Langton Green in Surrey, he set up an observatory with a 12½-inch reflector, and made the Moon his speciality. In 1968 he discovered transient lunar phenomena.

Writer, broadcaster, astronomer, he has published nearly 100 books, and presented more than 700 editions of the Sky at Night since 1957, the longest running series on BBC. Apart from a brief period at Armagh, Northern Ireland he lived in Selsey for most of that time at ‘Farthings’. In 1968 he moved to Selsey, and the observatory operated continuously until 2012. He is credited with having done more than anyone else to raise the profile of astronomy among the British public. In 1982 asteroid 2802 Moore was named to honour him (ODNB; Mobberley 2013; see Middlesex page).

Noble, William [Capt.; FRAS](1828-1904), established his observatory at Forest Lodge Maresfield, Uckfield, in 1857 and owned a 4.2-inch Ross refractor. He regularly observed occultations, sunspots, and reported on the Mercury transit of 1868. He co-operated closely with his neighbour M.C. Lesson-Prince who opened his own observatory in 1857 with a much more powerful 7-inch Tully refractor (ODNBobit., MRAS, 65 (1905), 342-3).

Pether, Abraham (1756-1812), born Chichester, landscape painter of moonlight scenes in which the astronomical detail is always correct; he constructed telescopes. He died in Southampton, leaving his widow and nine children destitute (see ODNB).

Prince, Charles Leeson [FRAS](1821-1899), born Uckfield who trained  and practised as a physician in the local area as his father before.  With an interest in astronomy and several other areas, he had an observatory erected at his home in Crowborough.  This housed his favourate instrument, a 6.8-inch refracting telescope by Tulley that was formerly owned by Dr Pearson (Obit., MNRAS, 60 (1900), 321-3).

Roberts, Isaac (1829-1904), established an observatory at Crowborough (see below), for earlier details (see Lancashire; Denbighshire)

Vallance, Philip (1803-1897), born Brighton, a timber merchant and the first person to write an astronomical article for the English Mechanic. Lived at Cobb Court, Storrington, Sussex, where he used a 12-inch reflector and a 6-inch refractor.

Williams, Arthur Stanley (1861-1938), born in Brighton, was considered an unusually gifted observer of planets and variable stars, all made with a 6½-inch Calver reflector which had no clock drive. His very shy disposition led him to abandon his career as a solicitor apparently in about 1884 – and move to Mawes, Cornwall, where he became almost reclusive. He lived on a barge in the harbour, that in the winter was beached, and his observatory was a short way from the harbour. In 1936 he sought a more gentle night-time climate, and moved to Feoch, near Truro.

Williams was a founder member of the BAA, and of the RAS since 1884. Contemporaries ranked him with Dawes, Denning and Espin. But he also had methodological (using transit times for features, but without the use of a micrometer!) and analytical skills. Other distinguished observers had followed spots on Jupiter’s surface. But it was Williams who collected their results of two centuries, added his own, and established the existence and positions of a number of definite currents in the Jovian atmosphere, and demonstrated that despite some drift, they were permanent features. His method and results gave a great impetus to the BAA’s Jupiter section, and the current nomenclature of the belts and zones is generally his. Williams also observed Saturn, and Mars – but was not deluded by the claims of canals. He also made photometric observations of stars, made a visit in 1885-86 to Australia, and published A Catalogue of the Magnitudes of 1081 stars lying between -30° and the South Pole (London, 1898). Among these he discovered the first of a number of variable stars. He was the first British observer to apply photography to the search for variables, using a 4.4-inch portrait lens mounted on his equatorial. Williams recorded some 10,000 magnitude estimates of variable stars during an era when coverage was sparse (Obit, MNRAS, 99 (1939), 313-16).

Woolley, Sir Richard van der Riet (1906-1986), Senior Assistant and JCA Astronomer at Cambridge Observatory (1937-39), later Astronomer Royal (1956-71) (ODNBDorset; County of London; Cambridgeshire).

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