Astronomers :Yorkshire – West Riding

Barbour, William Donald (1832-1902), born Glasgow, Scotland in 1832. Barbour was fascinated by the potential of life on other planets, and was a key member of Leeds Astronomical Society until his death in Leeds (Obit., JBAA, 13 (1903) 286-7).

Bartrum, Clement Osborn (1867-1939), born in Bradford, Yorkshire.  A prominent member of the BAA which he joined in 1912; he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1920 (Obit., MNRAS, 100 (1940), 232-3).

Bolton, Thomas Simeon Scriven [FRAS] (1883-1929) born in Yeadon, Leeds where he joined the family cloth and oil business. Devoted to astronomy, both as an observer and artist/illustrator with publications. He joined the BAA and RAS [1905] using a 4-inch refractor and 10-inch With reflector at his home at Hyde Park, Leeds.  He subsequently established his own observatory. Bolton suffered from ill health and died at the early age of 46 (Obit., MNRAS, 90 (1930), p.359); Obit., JBAA, 40 (1930), 224; Armitage 2009; Davenhall 2009; Stroobant 1907, 122) .

Booth, David  (1860-1937), born Hunslet, Leeds who was a self-employed Grocer through his life.  A founder member of the British Astronomical Association, he was the initial director (1890-2) of the BAA meteor section – membership lapses after 1894.

Brook, Charles Lewis (1855-1939), of Meltham near Huddesfield. The third director of the BAA Variable Star Section, serving from 1910-1921. He had a broad interest in astronomy, and observed Nova Persei 1901. He started submitting variable star observations in 1902, and 7,648 observations are presently recorded to his credit, most made with the 9-inch reflector at his Harewood Lodge home in Meltham until 1924. He edited for publication the variable star observations of Norman Pogson (1829-1891). In this he was encouraged by Professor Herbert Hall Turner (1861-1930) of Oxford University Observatory, who made a consistent effort to see that good variable star observations should be published and thereby become useful in extending the database. Brook made a crucial contribution to the development of the BAA’s reputation for first-rate observations, and being properly published (Obit., MNRAS, 40 (1940, 233-4); Shears, 2012a).

Burrell, Ben (1903-1983) of 93 Woodhouse Road, Doncaster, South Yorks. A railway porter who became a railway fitter, then photographer. He made his own glass slides, and coloured them skillfully for astronomical talks. He made parts for the others. He started with a 7.5cm refractor, and by the early 1930s used a 22cm reflector with mirror by With. At one time he owned a 16cm Calver reflector which had once been used by Arthur P. Norton to compile his famous star atlas. Later Burrell built a 25cm reflector. In November 1938 he took the first successful colour photos of a total lunar eclipse. He made wonderful drawings of Saturn. He served as President of the Leeds A.S. (1903-1983) of 93 Woodhouse Road, Doncaster, South Yorks. A railway porter who became a railway fitter, then photographer. He made his own glass slides, and coloured them skillfully for astronomical talks. He made parts for the others. He started with a 7.5cm refractor, and by the early 1930s used a 22cm reflector with mirror by With. At one time he owned a 16cm Calver reflector which had once been used by Arthur P. Norton to compile his famous star atlas. Later Burrell built a 25cm reflector. In November 1938 he took the first successful colour photos of a total lunar eclipse. He made wonderful drawings of Saturn. He served as President of the Leeds A.S. (McKim 2013).

Crossley, Edward (1841-1905), educated at Owens College, Manchester, an industrialist and amateur astronomer – see Bermerside Observatory below (Obit., MNRAS, 65 (1905), 335-6).

Field, John [Felde] (c.1520-1587), born of parents from East Ardsley, he was living in London by the 1550s then later in Yorkshire. An astrologer and writer, best known for his support of Copernican World System that he included with the almanacks he compiled (ODNB).

Fowler, Alfred (1868-1940), born Wilsden, Yorkshire. Educated at the Normal School of Science (later Imperial College). He was assistant and later professor there. An expert spectroscopist, he proved that sunspots are cooler than the surrounding gas (see County of LondonODNB).

Gascoigne, William (c.1612-1644), son of Henry Gascoigne of Thorpe on the Hill, Rothwell, near Leeds. Best know as an inventor of optical instruments, being credited as the inventor of filar micrometer, as used on the telescope. He undertook extensive correspondence the William Crabtree and Jeramiah Horrocks  on the Copernican World System (ODNB; Sellers, 2012).

Glenhill, Joseph (1845-1906), born in Bradford, worked as a schoolmaster then observer to Edward Crossley at his Bermerside Observatory (1869-1905) at his home in Halifax (Obit., MNRAS, 67 (1907), 232-3).

Green, Charles (1735-1771), born Swinton. In 1761 appointed assistant to Bradley at the ROG (see County of LondonODNB).

Hargreaves, Frederick James [FRAS] (b.10 Feb.1871 – d.4 Sept. 1970), born in Bradford (Obit., QJRAS, 12 (1971), 336-7; see Surrey).

Howarth, Elijah [FRAS] (1853-1938), born Liverpool, before moving to Sheffield where he operated the Weston Park Museum Observatory. Travelled to Spain in 1900 and 1905 to observe solar eclipses (Obit., MNRAS, 99 (1939), p.311).

Mellor, Thomas Kilner [FRAS] (1847-1924), born Huddersfield, a woolen manufacturer and stockbroker in the Hudderfield district. An original member of the BAA, he was elected a fellow of the RAS in 1883. He is recorded as an active observer, using a 6-inch equatorial refractor by Cooke that would need an observatory. He published solar observations and participated in the 1898 BAA solar eclipse expedition to Vadso in Norway.

Hoyle, Sir Fred (1915-2001), born Gilstead, West Yorkshire. He spent most of his life at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge. He made a fundamental contribution to the theory of nucleosynthesis in stars, and was an architect of the Steady State theory of the Universe (see CambridgeshireODNB).

Michell, John (1724-1793), admitted to Queen’s College, Cambridge, graduating in mathematics, taking the Woodwardian chair of Geology (1762-4) and then became rector (1767) of Thornhill Yorkshire. He anticipated the existence of binary stars rather than the idea that double stars were due to line-of-sight. He also proposed the possibility of black holes (see NottinghamshireCambridgeshireODNB).

Reade, Joseph Bancroft (1801-1870), born Leeds, educated Leeds Grammar School, then Trinity Cambridge and Gonville and Caius Cambridge. In 1839 appointed to the living at Stone, Bucks (until 1859), he became a member of the Hartwell Synod, and built an Observatory there 1843. Best known as a pioneer photographer, a microscopist and natural scientist of note (see BuckinghamshireODNB).

Richardson, William (1804-1878), of High Field, Southowram, near Halifax, gave lectures on astronomy, geology, electricity and other scientific topics. He had an observatory built at High Field (which was demolished in the 1950s/60s) – see below. The Bronte family attended some of his public lectures at Howarth. He was a friend of William Cobbett, the radical journalist. Richardson is buried at St Anne’s-in-the-Grove Church at Southowram (Comfort 1914-5).

Shackleton, William (1871-1921), born Keighley, 1891 an assistant at the Solar Physics Observatory, London (see County of LondonObit., MNRAS, 82 (1922), 255-6).

Sheepshanks, Richard (1794-1855), born at Leeds, educated at Richmond School, and Trinity College, Cambridge. Graduating tenth wrangler in 1819, he was called to the bar, and took holy orders. A gentleman of leisure, he undertook a number of laborious government services. He joined the Astronomical Society in 1825 and was its Secretary from 1829 onwards, becoming increasingly influential in the RAS. He lavished time and money on astronomical instruments, but was not himself a keen observer, although at his home in Woburn Place, London from 1824-41, then at Reading, berks, from 1841 until his death, he had small observatories attached to the house. To the great benefit of astronomy, his sister Anne Sheepshanks (1789-1876) in 1858 presented £10,000 to the University of Cambridge as the Sheepshanks Fund for the promotion of research in astronomy. Applied by Airy, this relieved the great distress of James Challis, Director of the Cambridge Observatory, enabling him to bring meridian observations up to date and published. This enabled him to retire in 1860 to be succeeded by John Couch Adams. Adams only took the directorship on condition that he was not required to observe. The Fund made it possible to engage the experienced observer Andrew Graham, and Anne Sheepshanks provided a further £2,000 to purchase a powerful new transit circle. These benefactions transformed the situation of the Cambridge Observatory (see CambridgeshireODNB; Obit., MNRAS, 16, [4](1856), 90-7.

Smeaton, John [FRS] (1724-1792), born Austhorpe, Leeds, a famous civil engineer with an avid interest in astronomy. Prior to practising civil engineering he had developed his skills as an engineer building philosophical instruments such as a marine compass and his own telescope that is preserved at the Science Museum, London (In. No. 1931-347).  Smeaton observed from a tower at his home Austhorpe Lodge, the dome of which was later incorporated into the observatory of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in York (ODNB , Skempton 1981).

Teasdale, Washington (b. 8 Aug. 1830-1903), born Leeds, a civil engineer, he worked in India for many years, becoming fluent in Hindustani. On early retirement back in England he pursued his scientific interests. He was associated with and often lectured to ….  The Leeds Astronomical Society, The Leeds Naturalist Club, The Scientific Association, The Philosophical & Literary Society and The Institute of Science, Art & Literature.  An early worker in the field of photography his lectures to these societies were frequently illustrated by lantern slides of his own production.  He was elected into the fellowship of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1886 and an original member of the British Astronomical Association in 1890. He was also instrumental in the re-forming of the, already mentioned, Leeds Astronomical Society and was its President between 1893 and 1897. He amassed a large collection of scientific instruments, works of art and other curios at his home in Hyde Park Road, Leeds which were of great interest to his many visitors.  He travelled to the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting at Southport in 1903 where he suffered a seizure and second attack on the following day proved fatal. He died on Saturday,  September 19 1903 at the age of 72 (Obit., MNRAS, 64 (1904), p.293).

Turner, Herbert Hall (1861-1930), born and educated in Leeds, thence Clifton College and Trinity Cambridge, graduating second wrangler 1882. As chief assistant at the ROG he worked on the Carte du Ciel (1884-94). Later he became Savilian professor (1893-1930) at Oxford. Here he continued his work with the great international photographic survey (see OxfordshireODNB)

Whitmell, Charles Thomas (1849-1919), born Leeds, who graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge and briefly worked at the Cavendish Laboratories, later working as a school inspector in Leeds. His interest in astronomy found outlet with the Leeds AS where he was elected president and contributed papers to both the BAA and RAS  (Obit., MNRAS, 80 (1920), 359-60; Stroobant 1907, 122).

Whitelow, Edward Turner (1854-1932) born in Elland, became a civil engineer in Manchester, and by about 1910 had established his Birkdale Observatory, Southport, which was active until c.1932 (see Lancashire; Obit., MNRAS, 93 (1933), 232-3).