SHA County Co-ordinator: Stuart Williams
Blagg, Mary Adele (1858-1944), born at Abbot Hay, Cheadle, Staffs, the eldest of five daughters and four sons of a solicitor. Largely self-educated in mathematics, she was attracted to astronomy by attending the university extension lectures of J.A. Hardcastle, who encouraged her to original work in selenography. Hardcastle undertook lunar measuring for his colleague S.A. Saunder (1852-1912), another master at Wellington College, with the support of Professor H.H. Turner of Oxford.
In mid-life in 1907 Blagg responded to Turner’s appeal for skilled help, and by more than 20 years indefatigable work became the longest serving of his sixteen volunteers, helping him advance work of international importance.
Blagg sorted out a mass of variable star observations by Joseph Baxendall, editing the whole by 1918 for discussion by Turner and subsequent publication. This led to 11 joint papers with Turner in MNRAS. She then used Turner’s method of harmonic analysis to make her own analyses and generate light curves for four variables observed by members of the BAA, and published six papers of her own.
Blagg achieved repute and made a lasting contribution by her lunar work. In 1900 lunar maps were still based on W.G. Lohrmann’s measurements of 1824-36, but only 162 points were known with precision, and nomenclature was confusing. Saunder applied Turner’s methods developed for the Astrographic Catalogue, and made the formidable reductions to allow for libration. He determined a large number of secondary control points, gaining an improvement in accuracy of 50 times. In 1905 Saunder proposed an international committee to remedy lunar nomenclature, and the chairman called for an accurate map in mean libration. Untimely deaths brought Mary Blagg to undertake a crucial role in both projects. Dr Julius Franz made fundamental measures for the outer areas, and Saunder of the inner areas. When Franz died, Saunder laid down all the points for the map to be drawn by W.H. Wesley. Blagg was already engaged in compiling a great list of features and their names given by Beer and Madler, Julius Schmidt, Edmund Neison, and W.R. Birt. Saunder’s sudden death in 1912 left Turner to publish in 1913 the Collated List of Lunar Formations, which he noted “is throughout the work of Miss Blagg”.
When the IAU was formed in 1920, Blagg joined the Lunar Commission under Turner’s presidency. He secured the best photographs from Paris, Mount Wilson, and other observatories. From these, using the positions determined by Franz and Saunder, Blagg had by 1922 drawn the maps for the 10 outer portions of the Moon, to complete an atlas with the four inner quadrants drawn by Wesley. After 1928 she and Dr K. Muller of Vienna developed a definitive list naming nearly 6,000 features, published by the IAU as Named Lunar Formations (1935), of which the second volume was the atlas, not surpassed until 1964. The nomenclature remained the basic work, thus meeting Saunder’s original aim.
Blagg undertook masses of tedious work for others. The originality of her contribution was that she first disentangled the errors of the selenographers who had relied on Lohrmann’s early measurements, and then brought order to the chaos that had accumulated in naming features on the Moon.
Blagg was one of the first five women to be elected a Fellow of the RAS, in January 1916. She died at her home in High Bank, Cheadle. A lunar crater is named after her – R. Hutchins (see Hockey 2007; Wiki).
Diggles, Robert Edward [BSc.,FRAS], of ‘Colwyn’, Bucknall, Stoke on Trent. A school teacher, and calculator for the Circle’s observations, he used an 18cm refractor. 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: Hertfordshire; McKim 2013).
Ward, Michael [Rev.] (d.1842), vicar of the village of Lapley, near Pinkridge & Brewood, established an observatory -see below (‘Clergy Deceased’, Gent. Mag. , p.334) .
Wrottesley Hall Observatory (1842-1867), established by Sir John Wrottesley (1798-1867), a co-founder of the Astronomical Society of London, at Wrottesley Hall. The principal instrument was a 7¾-inch Dollond on an Old English mahogany mount, although the clock drive was unreliable. Between 1842-54 observations were made to produce two supplementary catalogues to the Blackheath Catalogue. In 1851 he published the Periodic observations of 19 stars for Parallax. In 1861 he published a catalogue of the positions and distances of 398 double stars. As Observing Assistants Wrottesley employed John Hartnup (who went on to direct the Bidston Observatory), then Morton Philpott, then Mr Hough.
Keele Observatory (1960-current), established at Keele University, Keele using a 12-inch Grubb refracting telescope originally from the Oxford University Observatory.
High Street, Newchapel
Tel: 01782 785205
Patrick Moore Lunar Observatory
(not open to the public)
Pendrell Hall College
Societies and Organisations
North Staffordshire Astronomical Society (NSAS), founded (?). Members meet monthly (1st Tues.) 21st Hartshill Scout Group HQ, Mt Pleasant, Newcastle-under-Lyme (ST5 1DP).
Stafford & District Astronomical Society (StDAS), founded (?). Members meet at Weston Road School, Blackheath Lane, Stafford – defunct (2018?).
Walsall Astronomical Society (WalAS), monthly meetings held at Rushall Olympic FC, Dales Lane, Rushall, Walsall (WS4 1LJ).
Wolverhampton Astronomical Society (WolAS), founded in 1951. Monthly meetings held at Highfields Environmental Centre, Boundary Way, Wolverhampton (WV4 4NT) with observing session at Trysull Village Hall, Trysull, Wolverhampton (WV5 7HP).