Huntingdonshire

Astronomers

John Wheatley (1812-1888)  John Wheatley was born in Earith, Huntingdonshire in 1812. He was apprenticed to a carpenter and soon after came to live in near-by Bluntisham until his death in 1888.

Wheatley made his own telescopes. His first were constructed by grinding lenses from the bottoms of glass tumblers and attaching them to metal rods.

As these early style Newtonian telescopes also needed a reflector cast from speculum metal (an alloy of copper and tin that can be highly polished), he approached the local foundry but they couldn’t master the process, so he eventually built his own foundry and cast the reflectors himself. One of them still survives to this day at the Norris museum in St. Ives. (courtesy of Cambridge County Council; ‘John Wheatley’, Obs, 78 (Feb. 1958), 19-20).

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