Dorset

The Society would be delighted to hear from anyone with more information about this county’s links with astronomy. Can you add anything to the names of the people and places listed below? Please contact me if you have anything however small.

Contact

SHA County Co-ordinator: Carolyn Kennett

Email:  carolyn@hird.net

Astronomers

Ainslie, Maurice Anderson (4 Oct 1869 – 19th Jan 1951), member of the British Astronomical Association, becoming its head of its Saturn section and was president from 1928 – 1930.  He was an active member of the Bournemouth Natural Science Society giving regular talks about astronomical topics.

Bangay, Richard (Bpt. 25 November 1834 – 24 Sept 1931), son of Ellis Bangay was born in Saxlington Norfolk.  In 1862 he graduated as a MD from the University of St Andrews, and also became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons during the same year.  These positions he would retain to his death at the age of 98.   He married Agnes Dorrington in Cheadle, Cheshire in 1880, with whom he had 7 children.  During his position as a MD and surgeon he moved across the British Isles numerous times.  It is his time living at Belmont in Lyme Regis, Dorset where he focused on astronomical issues building and maintaining an observatory.

Bangay bought Belmont in 1883 where he would live with his increasing family including many extended members and servants.  Here he undertook numerous expansions and redevelopments of the building including the construction of the large observatory which overlooks Lyme Regis itself.  The observatory consists of a polygonal observatory tower which still has its winding gear, now restored.

Bangay was foremost a Victorian gentleman and with that respect he had interests in many fields including natural history, geology as well as astronomy.  He was involved with the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field club.  In 1992 July he took the club to look at Sir Henry Peeks observatory at Rousden over the country border in Devon.  As a friend of Sir Henry Peek he was a regular to Rousden and no doubt would have had access to observe at the more professionally run observatory housed at the estate.  By 1902 Bangay had moved to Finsbury Park, London.  He was elected to the British Astronomical Association on the 18th June 1905.  With the loss of his wife in 1907 he moved to Monmouthshire where he would spend the next twenty years.   He died in 1931 in Buckinghamshire in relative poverty. His daughter presented his collection of astronomical books to the British Astronomical Association.  Children of note were his son Raymond whom worked at the Marconi telegraph station on the Lizard in Cornwall and wrote books on telegraphy and telephony.

Cooper, Samuel, while living in Charminster he observed and photographed the transit of Venus Dec 6th 1882.  Observations were published in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.  Samuel Cooper was described as a poor, but resourceful day labourer astronomer.  He was known as the “Optical Bricklayer”.  He used 23cm silver on glass Newtonian reflector and a homemade camera to image the transit.

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Photo of solar transit 6 Dec 1882
CREDIT : RASC.

Eaton, Henry Stokes, observed the 1858 annular eclipse March 14/15.  This was observed at Little Bridy.  The zone of annularity passed through a narrow path from Lyme Regis to the Wash.  Eaton was a distinguished meteorologist and president of Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Society in 1901.

Ellison, Mervyn Archdall (5 May 1909 – 12 Sept. 1963), an Irish astronomer who had obtained a position at the Sherborne School, Dorset in 1933.  He worked on numerous astronomical projects and wrote The Sun and its Influence in 1955.  He has a crater on the Moon named after him.

Hardy, Thomas (2 June 1840 – 11 Jan. 1928), author born in Stinsford, Dorset who was a keen amateur astronomer.  He wrote about astronomy in his novel The Two Towers (see Gossin, P. Thomas Hardy’s Novel Universe: Astronomy, Cosmology, and Gender in the Post-Darwinian World. Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007).

Lovell, Bernard (31 August 1913 – 6 August 2012), worked in Dorset at Worth Matravers on the development of Radar and would continue in astronomy at the forefront of radio astronomy.

Peek, Bertrand Meigh (1891 -1965), born in Dorset (for more details see Warwickshire; Kent)

Pither, Colin, local amateur astronomer with a private observatory in Charminster, who reported and published that that his observation of the Rho Bootes showed it to be variable and a possible as Cepheid variable star.  This was later refuted by professional astronomers.

Talbot,William Henry Fox (1800-1877), born at Melbury, Dorset.  He was an eminent mathematician, astronomer and archaeologist.  He is best known as the inventor of the photographic negative, discovering the processes involved in developing, fixing and printing photographs.  In astronomy he published numerous papers and even has a crater on the Moon named after him (see Arnold, H.J.P., William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of photography and Man of Science (London, Hutchinson Benham Ltd, 1977); ODNB; http://foxtalbot.dmu.ac.uk/index.html).

Wallace, Alfred Russell (8 Jan. 1823 – 7 Nov. 1913), born in Usk, Monmouthshire, Wales he died at Wimborne, Dorset.  He best known as co-discoverer of the theory of evolution. Wallace developed a keen interest in astronomy in later life.  He debated, theorised and wrote about life on other planets especially Mars.  He also wrote extensively on the History of Astronomy during the 19th century.

Waugh, Rev. William Robert (25 July 1818 – 25 Nov. 1905), worked mostly worked on planetary observations from his observatory located on Portland.  Here he housed a 12½-inch reflector and a 4½-inch refractor.  Elected FRAS in 1888, he was also the director of the Jupiter section of the British Astronomical Association.  He was a renowned draughtsman and his drawings on Jupiter included great accuracy and detail.  He contributed to Webb’s Celestial Objects.  On a local level he was a member of the Dorset Natural History society.  He was one of the people who reported a new star (nova) in the constellation of Perseus.

Woolley, Richard (1906-1986), born in Weymouth, educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, he was mentored by Frederick Stratton. He was appointed Chief Assistant at the Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG), but after only two years returned to Cambridge as Chief Assistant to Arthur Eddington. Stratton soon afterwards urged him to apply for the Directorship of the Commonwealth Solar Observatory at Canberra. Donald Lynden-Bell credited him with being ‘one of the architects of the re-birth of British optical astronomy through the Anglo-Australian Telescope and the UK Schmidt’. He returned in 1956 to be Astronomer Royal and oversee the move of the ROG to Herstmonceux. There he forged a vital link with the University of Sussex (see ODNB; Lynden-Bell 1987Sussex ; County of London; Cambridgeshire).

Observatories

Durlston Astronomy centre

Observatory at county park.  Public outreach events hosted (http://www.durlston.co.uk/visit-astronomy.aspx)

Frome Valley Observatory

Small private observatory (http://dorsetastro.synthasite.com/observatory.php)

Horton tower (East Dorset)

Folly and astronomical observatory, a five story gothic tower built in 1750.

Middlehill Observatory

Small private observatory (http://www.middlehillobservatory.co.uk/)

Marwick Observatory, West Moors (1919-1926)

The final observatory of E.E. Markwick (see Kent) a variable star and solar observer. West Moors village is located in East Dorset is just north of Bournemouth, and just outside the larger settlements of Ferndown.

Portland Observatory

Mainly a terrestrial observatory but astronomical meetings have taken place on occasion.

Worth Hill Observatory, Worth Matravers

A private observatory with open evenings, but now relocated to Devon (http://www.dstrange.freeserve.co.uk/)

Astronomical Clubs and Societies

Bournemouth Natural Science Society and Museum -astronomical section(BNSSM).

Wessex Astronomical Society (WeAS).

Weymouth Astronomy Club (WAS).

Astronomical monuments

Astronomical Clock at Wimborne Minster

A 14th century astronomical clock located on the minsters West tower.  The clock is regarded as one of the most ancient working clocks in Europe.  It is based on the Ptolomaic geocentric model of the universe with the Earth at its centre.

Dorset Cursus complex

Neolithic astronomical observatory?.  Suggested in a paper by Wood, JE.  Penny, A.

Philae Obelisk

Located between Blanford and Winborne.  The obelisk was brought from Egypt and located at Kingston Lacy by William John Bankes.  The Philae Lander carried by the Rosetta space probe, which landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov – Gerasimenko is named after this monument.

Other items of note

Bloxworth Estate – numerous astronomical books dating from 1738 now held by the Dorset records office.

 Useful addresses

Dorset Record Office

Bridport Road
Dorchester DT1 1RP
England

Tel 01305 250550
Fax 01305 257184

Email archives@dorset-cc.gov.uk

URL http://www.dorset-cc.gov.uk/archives

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