Astronomers: Lancashire

Banks, William [FRAS] (1850-1933), proprietor (1877-91) of William Banks and Co optical/photographic manufacturer at 32 Corporation Street, Bolton. Later established as a telescope manufacturer specialising in reflecting telescopes. Wrote Telescopes: Their Construction, Adjustment and Use that was later re-issued (Andrews 1992, 118).

Baxendell Joseph [Snr.; FRS; FRAS](1815-1887), born Manchester, was largely self-taught mathematician who after work  sea became an estate agent. During this period in Manchester he took up astronomy  polishing mirrors for his own reflecting telescopes and observing with friend  Robert Worthington of Crumpsall Old Hall where they erected an observatory.  Movng to Birkdale nr. Southport in 1871 he was appointed Superintendent of the town’s Meteorological Observatory and later established his own observatory housing a 6-inch Cooke refractor  loaned to him by Thomas S. Bazley, which was subsequently donated to the Southport Corporation who erected it in Heskth Park ODNB; Obit., MNRAS, 48, 4 (1888), 157-60.

Benson, Davis Edmonson (1860-1937), born in Moss Side, Manchester and educated locally, before moving to Southport where he lived for the rest of his life. Trained as a civil engineer he worked in the family laundry business. His wide range of interests included  photography, botany, microscopy, geology and astronomy. A member of both the BAA and Liverpool Astronomical Society he observed the Aug. 1905 solar eclipse in Spain. He also published a booklet  on the making of speculum – glass mirrors (Gilligan 2017). 

Brothers, Alfred [FRAS] (1826-1912), born Sherness, Kent, he progressed from builder’s clerk to a photographic artist. After marriage in Maidstone, he moved to Manchester with his family. A photographic pioneer, he applied his skills to the field of astronomy, being acknowledged in print, being both active with the BAA and RAS (Obit.).

Burgess, Eric (1920-2005), born Stockport he joined Manchester AS in 1935. He was involved in setting up several interplanetary and astronautical associations. He became a distinguished author and journalist, and a pioneer in the promotion of rocketry & space exploration. In 1952, he coined the term “interplanetary probe”. He created the idea of placing plaques on spacecraft for extra-terrestrial intelligent beings. This was done on Pioneer 10 in 1972, & Pioneer 11 in 1973. In 1956 he emigrated to the US, where he gained citizenship in 1962. He remained there until his death in 2005.  Among his many books are: Rocket Propulsion, with an Introduction to the Idea of Interplanetary Travel (1952); Frontier to Space (1955); Satellites and Spaceflight (1957); Long-Range Ballistic Missiles, (1961) and To the Red Planet, (1978).

Carlisle, William (1842-1910), born London, astronomer and brother at Stoneyhurst College Observatory Augustin (Udias 2003).

Chatwood, Samuel (1833-1907), born Bolton was a partner with Chatwood & Co, manufacturer of bank safes. A wide ranging engineer, he had an interest in astronomy as he the acquired the 9 1/2-inch Cooke refractor of Isaac Fletcher, installing it at his home in Worsley, Salford near Manchester. It does not appear that it was seriously used as no observations were published (Obit., Institute of Iron & Steel, 1910, p.513; Nakamura & Orchiston 2017, 299-301).

Copeland, Ralph (1837-1905), born near Wood Plumpton – see Midlothian.

Cortie, Aloysius Laurence (1859-1925), born in London, educated at Stonyhurst College and entered the Jesuit Order. He joined the teaching staff in 1885 and was from 1919 the Director of the Observatory (Obit., MNRAS, 86 (1926), 175-7).

Crabtree, William (bap.1610-d.1644), bapized in Manchester he was likely a pupil of Manchester Grammar School. Engaged in the cloth trade at Broughton, Crabtree is best known as a friend of Jeremiah Horrocks and William Gascoigne. He visited Gascoigne at Middleton nr. Leeds where his friend showed him his eyepiece micrometer. Later in 1641 he was first, along with Horrocks, to observe a Transit of Venus across the Sun. Crabtree acquired both a telescope and crossstaff, though few records of his observations survive today (ODNB; Seller 2014).

Dawes, William Rutter [Revd.] (1799-1868), born Christ’s Hospital, London . In 1831 took up an Independent ministry in the village of Ormskirk, 15 miles from Liverpool. His Observatory mounted a 3¾-inch Dollond on an Old English mount that bore powers of 225, 285 and 625. With this instrument he made very precise micrometrical measurements of 222 binary stars, and also observed the planets and occultations (ODNB; see County of London; Kent).

Foster, Henry [Capt,; FRAS](1797-1831), born Woodplumpton, joining the Royal navy marines.  Early in his career he joined Arctic expeditions and assisted the astronomer Edward Sabine, making gravity measurements with a Kater Invariable Pendum and astronomical observations. During a later voyage to the Americas he was drowned in the Chagres river, Panama (ODNB; ‘Biographical note…’, MNRAS, 66 (1832), 66-8).

Gaythorpe, Sidney Bertram [FRAS] (1880-1964), born Barrow-in-Furness and was well educated at the local High School before entering the family trade as an engraver. He developed a keen interest in both history and astronomy.  He is best known for his work in re-discovering the achievement of Jeremiah Horrocks and intended to write his biography – a task, alas never completed (Obit., QJRAS, 6 (1965), 248-9; Sellers 2020a).

Hall, Walter James (1875-1947), associated with the company of Harvey and Sons, Bury. Known to have observed the Moon and planets (Jupiter & Mars). A member of the BAA, his observations using a 6-inch refractor are noted in both the RAS and BAA records (Appendix, MBAA, 11 (1903), p.137; Colour changes in Jupiter, MNRAS, 59 (1899), p.380;   Stroobant 2007, 47).

Hartnup, John (1841-1892), was born in Somerset House, by the Thames, but his whole life was lived in Liverpool. In 1863 he became Assistant at the Liverpool Observatory shortly before it was moved from Waterloo Dock to Bidston, and there he followed his father as director. He was killed by falling from the roof of the Observatory while making some meteorological observations there (Scoffield 2006); see County of London).

Higgs, George Daniel Sutton (1841-1914), born Clawton, Devon, watchmaker/jeweller also described as an optician. He developed a considerable skill and knowledge of spectroscopy, building the finest spectroscope of the period that was use to map the solar spectrum in fine detail. He have various papers published along with a atlas of the solar spectrum (Bowden 2007; Stroobant 1907, 128).

Hill, Harold (1920-2005) born Penzance, Cornwall he became a mine surveyor and lived at Orrell, nr. Wigan.  A dedicated lunar and solar observer who built his own spectrohelioscope using a borrowed grating. Hill joined the British Astronomical Association in 1964 (Nov. 25) and was briefly Solar Section Director in 1972, but resigned when he found the duties onerous interfering with his own observing programme. His observational skill was recognised  when in 1969 the BAA awarded him their Merlin Medal (Obit, JBAA, 116 (2006), p.203).

Hindle, John (1869-1942), born in Edenfield, Lancashire, he became an electrical engineer and textile machinery manufacturer. He was nominated for membership of the Manchester AS and later became vice-president. He built several substantial telescopes, both for his own use and those of other MAS members. On his numerous trips abroad he visited important observatories, especially in the US (Obit., MNRAS, 103 (1943), 66-7).

Holden, Francis [Frank] (1917-1992) [FRAS], born Preston, followed a career as a land drainage engineer before becoming a professional astronomer in later life. A keen amateur astronomer he was associated with the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory, Preston becoming assistant curator. After taking a MSc in astronomy he gained professional posts in the United States then in South Africa. On retirement in 1979 he returned to the United Kingdom (Obit., QJRAS, 34 (1993), 113-4; McLoughin 2020).

Holden, Moses (1777-1864), astronomer, was born at Bolton, Lancashire, on 21 Nov. 1777. As a youth he worked in a foundry at Preston, until disabled by an accident. On his recovery he occupied himself first as a landscape gardener, then as a weaver. Early in life he possessed a strong love of astronomy, and he collected a library that was remarkable for one in his station. In 1814–15 he constructed a large orrery and an ingenious magic-lantern. These were made for the purpose of illustrating his astronomical lectures, which were first given in the Theatre Royal, Preston, in 1815, and afterwards in many towns in the north of England. In 1818 he published ‘A small Celestial Atlas, or Maps of the Visible Heavens, in the Latitude of Britain,’ 3rd edit. 1834, 4th edit. 1840. It was one of the earliest works of the kind published at a low price. He also compiled an almanac, published in 1835 and later. In 1826 he devoted the proceeds of one of his lectures to the erection of a monument in St. Michael’s Church, Toxteth, Liverpool, to the memory of Jeremiah Horrocks the astronomer. He assisted in establishing the Preston Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge, and in 1834 the freedom of the borough was conferred on him. He died at Preston on 3 June 1864, aged 86 (ODNB).

Horrocks, Jeremiah (1610-41), born in Lower Lodge, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, was the only person to predict, and one of only two people to observe and record, the transit of Venus of 1639, which was the first transit of Venus to be predicted and observed.
He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, 1632-35, but did not graduate, perhaps for lack of means, more likely because he was a non-conformist. There he became familiar with the works of Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and other work. He was the first to demonstrate that the Moon moved in an elliptical path around the Earth, he wrote a treatise on Keplerian astronomy and began to explore mathematically the properties of the force that later became known as gravity. Isaac Newton in the Principia.
After leaving Cambridge he lived at Carr House, within the Bank Hall Estate, Bretherton, Much Hoole, where he was tutor to the children of the Stone family. After studying and criticizing astronomical tables, and making many observations of Venus over a number of years, Horrocks predicted the transit of Venus. From an upstairs window of Carr House on Sunday 23rd November 1639 (O.S.), Horrocks became the first astronomer to see a transit of Venus for about half an hour. The transit was also observed by his friend and correspondent, William Crabtree, from his home in Broughton, near Manchester.
Horrocks’ observations allowed him to make a well-informed guess as to the size of Venus (previously thought to be larger and closer to Earth), as well as to make an estimate of the distance between the Earth and the Sun. His figure of 59 million miles (0.63 AU) was far from the 93 million miles that it is known to be today, but it was a more accurate figure than any suggested up to that time. The observation was published by Hevelius in 1662. Horrocks died suddenly at the age of only 22. The Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, was established in 1993 at the University of Central Lancashire (ODNB).

Jeans, Sir James Hopwood (1877-1946), born Ormskirk, Lancashire. Educated Trinity College, Cambridge, second wrangler 1898, physicist, mathematician, cosmologist, author of many books on astronomy. He made fundamental contributions to the theories of radiation and stellar evolution, and with Hoyle and Gold proposed the Steady State theory of the universe (ODNB).

Johnson, Richard Coward (1840-1910), born West Derby, Liverpool and was educated locally. With a lifelong interest in astronomy he worked as an accountant in family business.  In 1873 he travelled to the Moab region of Jordan as part of an expedition lead by the cleric, Henry Baker Tristran (1822-1906).  He was involved in the establishment of the Liverpool Astronomical Society in 1882 being elected president.  He also distinguished himself as a celestial photographer, capturing a fine image of Comet Morehouse 1908c (Obit., MNRAS, 71 (1911), 270; Gilligan 2019).

Johnson, Samuel Jenkins [Rev., FRAS] (1845-1905), born Atherton, Lancashire who graduated from St. Johns College, Oxford. Ordained as deacon in 1868 at West Houghton (see Dorset; Devon; Gloucestershire; Obit. MNRAS 66 (1906), p.176 & JBAA, 16 (1905), 28).

Joynson, John [FRAS] (1820-1895), born Liverpool, a Liverpool cotton trader. A fellow of the RAS, elected 1867, he reported his observations of the planets, occulations and partial solar eclipses (1866 & 1870) from Waterloo, Liverpool. Later he moved to Thornton  Lodge, Thornton, near Crosby, Liverpool where he established an observatory housing a 6-inch Cooke refactor in 1863. In 1932 the telescope was donated to University College, London where it was installed in a new observatory before being transferred to Mill Hill Observatory in 1946 (BulSHA, Issue No.23 (2013), p.17).

Killip, Robert [Rev.; FRAS] (1853-1913), born Liverpool, he worked in shipping before training and practising as a Wesleyan minister in the N.W. of England. With a keen interest in astronomy, he made planetary observation using a 5-inch Wray refractor. A member of the RAS and BAA, he was active in the Jupiter and Mars sections of the latter and contributed observations of both planets and other phenomena (Obit., MNRAS, 74 (1914), p.275; Obit., JBAA, 23 (1913), 446-7).

Lassell, William (1799-1880), born in Bolton, educated in Rochdale, a brewer with a love of engineering and planetary astronomy. In 1839 he built his own 9″ refractor in a cast iron tube, which he mounted beneath an observatory dome. He established his Starfield Observatory near Liverpool with a 24-inch Reflector for which he made the mirror, mounted on his own experimental equatorial mount. In Lassell moved further out of Liverpool to Bradstones. In 1855, he built a 48″ reflector, which he installed in Malta 1861-65 because of the better observing conditions compared to England, and made discoveries in Orion’s Trapezium cluster. “It was William Lassell who first overcome the problems involved in figuring large mirrors by means of steam-powered machinery, for while it is true that Lord Rosse had steam-powered a mirror-making machine before Lassell, it was the Lassell-Nasmyth arrangement which formed a prototype. And without doubt, it was to be the Liverpool brewer who first solved the engineering problems that were inherent in mounting a large speculum metal mirror upon a smooth roller-bearing controlled, iron equatorial mount. The modern equatorial tracking of objects across the sky, with a large optical aperture, therefore, is very much a Lassell contribution”. (Allan Chapman, ;William Lassell and the discovery of Triton (1846)’, 1996).
Lassell demonstrated the quality and power of his own large reflectors by discovering in 1846 Triton, the largest moon of Neptune, in 1848 independently co-discovering Hyperion, a moon of Saturn, and in 1851 discovering Ariel and Umbriel, two moons of Uranus (ODNB).

Leadbetter, Charles (1681-1744), born in the village of Cronton, who briefly practised as a government excise officer in the West Midlands. A writer on astronomy and mathematics, his output included works on positional astronomy and the use slide rules and gauging for the purpose of excise calculations (ODNB).

Leigh, James (1838-1894) [FRAS], born Liverpool, who followed a career in banking becoming the manager of the Metropolitan Bank of England and Wales, Birmingham. He pursued an active interest in astronomy (1863-73) making observations of the Moon and double stars using an 8-inch reflector and a 4-inch Cooke refractor. Later, ill health restricted his interest in observing the heavens (Obit., MNRAS, 55 (1895), 197-8).

Nasmyth, James Hall (1808-90), born Edinburgh, built his business in Eccles, Lancashire (ODNB) -see Kent.

Perry, Stephen Joseph (1833-1889), born London, but became a Jesuit priest and educator, always associated with Stonyhurst College from 1860, and as Director of its Observatory from 1868 (see below). His main contributions were in the fields of magnetism and solar physics. He took a leading part in two Transit of Venus expeditions, and four eclipse expeditions, and lost his life in the 1889 solar eclipse expedition to the Salut Isles. See; George Bishop, (ODNB; (Obit., MNRAS, 50 (1890), 169-75; Bishop 1979 ).

Porthouse, William (1878-1964), born Burgh-by-Sands, Cumberland, who worked for the Manchester Cororation on sewage and river management.  A populariser of astronomy he  lectured widely and made broadcasts. An important member of the Manchester Astronomical Society, he was active observer using a 13-inch reflector once owned by N. E. Green (Obit., QJRAS, 6 (1965), 249-50).

Rendell, Robert Fermor [Rev., FRAS] (1873-1954), born, Ballarat, Australia who was educated at Roan School (see Essex; Obit, MNRAS, 115 (1955), p.130).

Roberts, Isaac (1829-1904), born at Groes, near Denbigh, North Wales, but at the age of 6 moved with his family to Liverpool. He amassed a fortune from building and contracting. In 1879 at his home in Rock Ferry, Birkenhead he obtained a 7-inch Cooke refractor. In 1882 he moved to ‘Kennessee’, Maghull, seven miles from Liverpool and there in 1883 began photography. See Maghull Observatory (below), and Sussex, Crowborough Observatory  (ODNB; Obit., Proc.RSLon., 75, 356-62 & see Sussex).

Sidgreaves, Walter (1837-1919), born in Grimsargh, near Preston, of a family with strong Jesuit connections. Walter taught at Stonyhurst College before being ordained in 1871. He was director of the Observatory there from 1863 to 1868, and during that time established the meteorological equipment and work for the Board of Trade. He worked closely with Father Stephen Perry, accompanied him on several expeditions, and upon Perry’s death in 1889 succeeded him as Director. He concentrated on stellar spectroscopy, and photography, and gained international recognition and honours  (Obit., MNRAS, 80 (1920), 355-8; ODNB).

Stanley, John H. Smythe – see Stanway

Stanway, John Holt (1799-1872), a Manchester-born businessman who emigrated to Texas, USA to escape his financial woes – changed his surname to Stanley. A grand amateur astronomer he established an observatory at his home, ‘Brookfield’ in Chorton-cum-Hardy nr. Manchester. Based on the observatory of W.H. Smyth it was later re-erected in Houston, Texas (Bryan 2008).

Strach, Eric Hugo (1914-2011) born Brno, Moravia (Czech Republic) Strach graduated in medicine from Prague University in 1938. Wartime upheavals saw him become an orthopaedic surgeon in Liverpool, England where he specialised in childhood spina bifida. Eric joined the BAA (24 Nov. 1965) spending the next four decades observing the Sun. In 1999 he received the BAA’s Merlin Medal and Gift and, a decade later, in 2009 he was awarded their Walter Goodacre Medal and Gift for his solar work, both white light and hydrogen α wavelengths (Obit. JBAA 121 (2011), p.306-7).

Towneley, Richard (1629-1707), born Nocton Hall, a member of the Roman Catholics gentry in Lincolnshire . Having gained an education in the Low Countries, he devoted himself to the study of mathematics and Natural Philiosophy. Part of Horrocks’ circle of friends, he aquired examples of William Gascoigne’s screw eyepiece micrometer that he used to measure the size of the Sun and Moon.  He defended Gascoigne’s priority, as the inventor of the device, when it was rediscovered, in later years, by Adrien Auzout and Jean Picard and in France (Webster 1966; LaCour and Seller 2016).

Weld, Alfred (1823-1890), born Ludworth, England, educated at Stoneyhurst College. Science teacher who studied theology in 1851 and became director of the Observatory (1856-60) at Stoney College (Udias 2003 Obit., MNRAS, 51 (1891), 198-9).

Whitelow, Edward Turner (1854-1932) was born at Elland, Yorkshire. He became a civil engineer in Manchester, was elected FRAS 1893,sometime President of the Manchester Astronomical Society, member Liverpool Astronomical Society, Council member of the North West Branch of the BAA.  In 1894 Whitelow purchased from George Knott’s estate, the 7⅓-inch telescope Clarke with Mertz mount and installed it at his Birkdale observatory- first used by Dawes at his Hopefield Observatory, Haddenham (Obit., MNRAS, 93 (1933), 232-3).

Wilding, Richard (1842-1930) [FRAS], born Preston, a Lancashire cotton producer with an interest in astronomy.  A founder member of the British Astronomical Association he was a keen on astrophotography and in 1898 was the society’s section director for the new discipline.  To photograph the sky he used a 19-inch reflector with a 6-inch refractor as guide telescope and a 5-inch lens.  After 1900 he moved from Lancashire to Kent where he lived for the rest of his life (see Kent; Obit., MNRAS, 91 (1931), p.315 ).

Whittaker, Edmund Taylor (1873-1956), born at 7 Virginia Street, Southport. Educated at Manchester Grammar School, then Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating second wrangler in 1895 – see Dublin.

Wolfendale, Sir Arnold W. [FRS] (1927-2020) born Rugby, astronomer who graduated from manchester University ( Wiki; ‘Profile: Prof. Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS’, A&G, 49 [4](2008), p.4.11) – see DurhamWarwickshire.