Leicestershire

Astronomers

Bishop, George (1785-1861), born in Leicester, who made his fortune in British wine-making. At his home at South Villa, regent’s Park, he established a splendid observatory (ODNB).

Durrad, John William (1854-1939), born in Leicester, with an Interest in astronomy from a young age, discovered several new ‘crevasses’ feature on the Moon near Gassendi. He was active with the astronomical section of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society and built a small observatory in the garden of his home. Elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1876 (‘Obit’., MNRAS, 100, 238).

Dyson, Frank Watson (1868-1939), born Measham,  Derbyshire [nowLeicestershire], educated at trinity College, Cam,bridge, second wrangler. Astronomer Royal for Scotland, 1905-10, Astronomer Royal 1910-33. In 1928 he installed a new free pendulum clock, and introduced the transmission of more accurate Greenwich mean Time by broadcasting ‘pips’. A keen eclipse observer, in 1919 he organised observation of the solar eclipse to test and prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (see ODNB).

Goodacre, Walter (1856-1938), born Loughborough, as a youth a member of Liverpool Astronomical society. An amateur, second Director of BAA Lunar Section 1897-1937, published an important 77-inch hand-drawn map of the Moon in 1910. In 1931 he published a large book of 25 maps of the Moon, with description of features.

Pearson, William , Dr., Revd.(1767-1847), born at Whitbeck, a small village at the extreme south-west limit of the old county of Cumberland, a co-founder of the London Astronomical Society in 1820 (QJRAS, 35 (1994), 271-92). Author of Practical Astronomy. Established the South Kilworth Observatory (see ODNB).

Observatories

South Kilworth Observatory (1829-47). After his move from East Sheen, this his “Rectory Observatory” was established by Revd. William Pearson, building an east wing, south-facing, on to the Rectory. He had a 3¼” Simms transit of 44½” focal length, and a circle. Having set up the Observatory he then considered what work to do since he was single-handed. He decided to re-examine a table he had drawn up from several catalogues of 520 zodiacal stars likely to occult, as being useful to navigation. In 1830 he employed Ambrose Clark as assistant, a young villager who had studied mathematics privately. Clark used the transit, and Pearson the circle. . Then because of smoke pollution, he built in 1834 a purpose-built observatory at the south edge of the village, 100 yards from the Rectory. He had a large portable Jones transit instrument of 1815, a Troughton altazimuth of 1822, and a 6.8″ 12-feet focal length Tully refractor of 1825 on a parallactic equatorial ladder mount by Dollond (1827), the first of its kind. His observations established the obliquity of the ecliptic, yielded a catalogue of stars occulted by the Moon, and led to his two volume magnus opus Practical Astronomy (1824, 1829) for which he was awarded the RAS Gold Medal. The observatory building has been converted in to a private home.
See: Frost, 2010; Howse 1986; Pearson, in MRAS, 15 (1846), p. 97.

Societies and Organisations

Melton & District Astronomical Society (MDAS), founded in 1999, members (20-2016) meet at Gaddesby Village Hall,  Gaddesby (LE7 4WF)

Useful addresses
County Record Office
The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland,
Long Street, Wigston Magna, Leicester, LE18 2AH
Telephone: 0116 2571080
Email: recordoffice@leics.gov.uk

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