Much of the information on this page came from research carried out by our late chairman, Madeline Cox.
SHA County Co-ordinator: James S. Dawson
No of SHA members resident in this county – 2
Almond, Robert White, Rev. (1786-1853) Rector of St Peter’s Church in Nottingham 1814-1853. .Keen amateur astronomer. A friend of Nottingham mathematician and mill owner, George Green. Set up a private Library in Nottingham – Bromley House – which promoted the sciences and is still in use today.
Andrews, Henry. B. (? – d.1806), born Grantham, died Bingham 1806. Cambridge astronomer. No known records
Bush, Thomas W. (1839-1928), Nottingham baker and amateur astronomer. Stole the show at the 1870 Working Men’s Exhibition in London with his 13-inch equatorially mounted reflector. Given a gold medal, a solar eyepiece and a spectroscope by GB Airy, Astronomer Royal. Built an Observatory in Mapperley, Nottingham (1876). In 1889 became Lord Forester’s astronomer at Wiley Park in Shropshire. Died in East Grinstead in 1928.
Fox, W.E. [‘Bill’] (?), of 49 Milner Street, Newark, Notts., had a 75mm refractor, later a 15cm Browning reflector, and later still he borrowed a 25cm reflector from the BAA.. Unemployed during the Depression, he was an engineer who during WWII worked on silent pumps for submarines. He went on to direct the BAA Jupiter section for more than 30 years, and became BAA President. A member of ‘Mr Barker’s Circle’, an observing group of eight men active from April 1934 to December 1938 and May 1946 to May 1948. (see Robert Barker, Hertfordshire and McKim 2013).
Franks, William Sadler (1851-1935) Born in Newark. From an early age he was interested in the colours of stars. He became an expert in the subject, and produced a catalogue of 3890 stars. He had a small Berthon-type observatory. In 1892 he joined Isaac Roberts at Crowborough, and contemporaries recognised that he brought considerable skill to the photographs produced at the Observatory which won public acclaim. After Roberts’s death in 1904, Franks had several limited engagements at private observatories. From 1910 until his death in 1935 at the age of 84, he was in charge of Hanbury’s Observatory at East Grinstead (see Steavenson, W.H., ‘William Sadler Franks’, MNRAS, 96  (Feb 1936), 291-2).
Goodacre, Robert (1771-1835), born in Nottingham. Schoolteacher and lecturer in astronomy in 200 towns in England and also in America. Made his own extensive astronomical apparatus. 1st lecture in Bradford in 1821.
Grainger, Richard (?),.C20th. An early leader of Nottingham Astronomical Society (see Sky & Telescope July 1980, 61)
Green, George (1793 – 31 May) Born Sneinton, Nottingham. Miller & mathematician.
Gregory, Edward, Rev.(1744-1824), rector of Langar. Built an observatory in the grounds of his house. Discovered Comet 1793 Gregory-Mechain (C/1793 A1, 1792 II) in the evening of January 8, 1793 when observing Venus and measuring its distance from iota Aquarii.
Harrison, Majorie Hall (b.1915-), born Nottingham, astronomer. Studied at Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago gaining a doctorate in stellar evolution. Co-authored paper on this topic with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, George Gamow and G. Keller (see WIKI).
Herbert, John Harold (fl. 1897-1901), civil engineer resident at Mapperley Road (1897) and Hazlemont, Gregory Boulevard, both Nottingham, elected to membership of both the Royal Astronomical Society and British Astronomical Society in 1897 (MNRAS, 57 , p.331; JBAA, 20, p.89).
Henry, 4th Duke of Portland
Hind, John Russell (1823-1895), born in Nottingham – see County of London page.
Hunt, W. (?), an early member of the Nottingham Astronomical Society (Cox 2008, 32)
Lowe, Alfred (? -d.1856), father of Edward Joseph Lowe (Cox 2008, 28)
Lowe, Arthur Swann Howard
Lowe, Edward Joseph (1825-1900) born at Highfield House, near Nottingham. A founder member of the Meteorological Society. He was a friend of Henry Lawson, and from his home in Beeston, near Nottingham, it was Lowe who in 1849 drafted the Proposal for the Establishment of a Midland Observatory, setting out the astronomical and meteorological objectives, and the scale of benefits to subscribers of different amounts. The proposal failed and Lawson gave his principal telescopes elsewhere, but his entire equipment of meteorological instruments to Lowe at Beeston, where he and his father, Alfred Lowe, had 3 observatories.
Michell, John (1725-93), born in the central Notts village of Eakring. A clergyman, educated at and later a Fellow of Queen’s College, Cambridge. A natural philosopher and amateur astronomer who made the first suggestion that many double stars may be physically associated or binary systems. He was also the first astronomer to use statistical reasoning in his work. Michell is now credited with being the first to study the case of a heavenly object massive enough to prevent light from escaping (the concept of escape velocity was well known at the time). Such an object, which he called a “dark star” would not be directly visible, but could be identified by the motions of a companion star if it was part of a binary system. We would now call such an object a black hole (see Yorkshire: West Riding; Cambridgeshire; ODNB).
Naylor, Frederick William, Rev. (1810-1859), born Nottingham and was undertaking double star observing in 1839 from near Beeston, Nottingham, using a copy of William Herschel’s catalogue of double stars which he had hand transcribed – see Nottinghamshire Archives (GB 0157 : SC/15/67). He married twice [Elizabeth Milnes (c.1819-1845) and Maria Ann] and had at least three children [Elizabeth, Frederic William Barton (1848-1917), and Ellen Maria]. Naylor became vicar of the the village of Upton near Newark, Nottinghamshire in 1840. He is buried in the church vault by the north porch of the church at St Peter and St Paul in Upton.
Northrop, David (?), An early member of Nottingham Astronomical Society in the 1950s. Wrote and illustrated an article in Sky &Telescope magazine in July 1980 about Nottingham observatories, replete with watercolour drawings. He also published book of watercolour drawings of observatories around Britain in the 1980’s.
Peat, Thomas (1708-1780), an eminent Nottingham mathematician and friend of Charles Wildbore (Cox 2008, 24).
Pogson, Norman Robert (1829-1891) Born in Nottingham, privately educated, and intended by his father to join the family’s hosiery business. At the age of 16 Norman fled to London, and subsisted as a teaching assistant while learning astronomy from his friend John Hind, observer at George Bishop’s Regent’s Park Observatory. Appointed in 1850 as second assistant there, despite being on a drudge’s stipend he married in 1850 Elizabeth Ambrose. Their first child was born early in 1851. Thereafter, despite his exceptional skills and potential as an astronomer, Pogson’s career was shaped by his desperate efforts to feed his rapidly growing family, and keep a step ahead of debtors.
In October 1851 Pogson became Manuel Johnson’s second assistant at the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford. There, from his garden, with the 3¾” refractor borrowed from John Lee, he constructed seven charts and discovered three minor planets, and ten variable stars. Pogson was one of the earliest systematic observers of variable stars. This led to his defining the photometric scale, for which he remains best known. Fleeing his debts in Oxford, and seeking better terms, in January 1859 Pogson became director of Lee’s Hartwell Observatory with its 5.9″ Smythian refractor, ideal for his variable star work, and in two years he sent 14 papers to the RAS, and several to the BAAS. In February 1860 the Pogson’s sixth child was bor. Pogson was ‘tormented by clamorous creditors’. His only hope was the vacant Radcliffe observership, but Lee withheld a testimonial, now believing him to be unbusinesslike. He fell out with Lee, and resorted to seeking and obtaining the post of government astronomer in Madras. Aware of the deadly threat of the Indian climate, Pogson left his three eldest sons with their grandparents and his sister Mary Anne in Manchester, and took their two daughters and infant son to India.
In Madras, under his direction his assistant C. Ragoonatha Charry between 1862 and 1887 achieved a catalogue of 5,303 stars. Pogson concentrated on observing 134 variable stars, and discovered five more minor planets, a comet (1872), and eight variable stars. His project for 134 was too much, but his ‘invaluable’ observations of 31variables was published by Turner in 1908.
Pogson’s salary was inadequate to support a family. He could not afford a home leave. In 1866 he fell ill with typhoid. His eldest son Norman arrived from England in April 1869 and assisted him for 16 months without salary. His wife Elizabeth died in November that year aged only 40, leaving eleven children. Norman died in 1874. In 1883 Pogson married the Edith Stopford, daughter of a colonel, and they had three children together, one of whom died in infancy. Pogson died at the Observatory in 1891, where his wife worked as a salaried assistant astronomer. For more detail of his extraordinary life and situation (see ODNB).
Potchett, Mr (?), An astronomy lecturer, the only thing known about him is the following from the Quarterly Journal of Education vol 1. 1831, p. 421
“At Newark, Mr Potchett, a schoolmaster from Snenton (sic), has given a series of lectures on astronomy, the whole of the mechanical apparatus, as well as the geometrical figures, used in illustration, being of his own construction. Mr Potchett having, in the course of his lectures, expressed a hope to witness the establishment of a Mechanics’ Institute, a schoolmaster in the tow was immediately offered the use of a room, and a small society was formed, the first meeting taking place on New year’s Day. “
Potchett also gave lectures at the Mechanics Institute in Nottingham ca. 1838/9. He may have been a Lincolnshire man (Cox 2008, 26, 27&29).
Whitaker, Dr (?), an early member of the Nottingham Astronomical Society (Cox 2008, 32)
White, Robert (1694-1773), Born & died at Bingham. A cripple from birth, he was nevertheless given a good education despite his humble background. An almanac compiler for the Stationers’ Company. Wrote A celestial Atlas in 1750; several editions of this are listed in the British Library catalogue, the last one dated 1840, so it was obviously a popular work. A friend of Sir Neville Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal. Asked to compile the Nautical Almanac in 1767 but declined due to his age (Cox 2008, 23).
Whitehead, Joseph (1784-1811) Framework knitter at Sutton-in-Ashfield, and amateur astronomer. Self taught, he made his own instruments, including a quadrant & a terrestrial globe. He also made clocks and sundials from broken knitting needles. He produced a magnificent orrery said to be one of the finest of its day. He died of pneumonia at the age of 27, said to have been caused by sleeping in a damp room (Cox 2008, 23).
Wildbore, Charles (1737-1802), born Nottingham. Mathematician , kept an academy at Bingham. Edited the Lady’s Diary and Gentleman’s Diary. Lived at Broughton Sulney for a time as vicar.
Curate of upper Broughton Church for 34 years. A genius at mental arithmetic, he wrote a paper in Martin’s Miscellaneous Correspondence to prove that the moon’s orbit was always concave with respect to the Sun. Wrote under the pen names “Eumenes” or “Amicus” in the Gentleman’s Magazine.
He was a reviewer for Phil Trans and a friend of mathematician Thomas Peat. Refused membership of the Royal Society (Cox 2008, 24).
Observatories : current
Ilkeston AS observatory
Nottingham AS Observatory
Mansfield & Sutton AS, The Sherwood Observatory
Observatories : old
Broadgate House, Beeston, Notts 1851-1866 Edward J Lowe.
Beeston Observatory (“The Lighthouse”) 1850s – 1866 Alfred Lowe ; Edward J Lowe
Highfield House Observatory, Lenton, Nottingham 185?- 1882 Alfred Lowe; Edward J Lowe
Nottingham David K Northrop 195?-199? 5” Refractor Cook, Troughton & Simms
Nottingham Richard Grainger 1940s? 10” f8 Newtonian; Dr Whitaker 195-? 10” f8 Newtonian
West Bridgford, Nottingham W. Hunt 194-50? 5” Refractor Cook, Troughton & Simms
Societies and Organisations
Mansfield & Sutton Astronomical Society (MaSAS), founded in 1970 (see history page) its first meeting was held Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire attended by 12 people to encourage astronomy, for both beginners and the more experienced. The members meet at their Sherwood Observatory (NG17 5LF).
Libraries and Archives Offices
County Record Office
Nottinghamshire County Archives Office
County House, Castle Meadow Road, Nottingham NG2 1AG, England
Tel 0115-958-1634, Fax 0115-941-3997