London Astronomers

Airy, George Biddell (1801-92), born Alnwick, Northumberland, educated Trinity College, Cambridge, professor and director of the Cambridge Observatory 1826-35. The well-known inefficiency of the Royal Observatory stimulated Airy to make Cambridge an exemplar – producing first class observations and reducing and publishing them each year. He thereby became the only candidate to succeed Pond. Airy was seventh Astronomer Royal 1835-81. He reformed the staffing, took Cambridge high wranglers as Chief Assistants, restricted the Observatory to public utility-meridian observations reduced by schoolboy computers using standard forms, published the year’s observations each year, and designed and in 1850 installed a huge 8-foot transit circle with automatic recording. Bradley had achieved an accuracy of 1″ Dec. and about 1/6th of a second in RA, Airy’s transit achieved and accuracy of hundredths of an arc second.

Airy left all extra-meridian work and ‘astronomical physics’ to the Grand Amateurs, insisted that Presidents of the RAS should be practical astronomers and fought to maintain the Society’s standards. His reputation with some contemporaries was marred as being ‘the man who failed to find Neptune’, but that should not detract from his wider achievements. An engineer, not himself an observer, he led the ROG to a world leadership position in astronomy, and ignored the chaffing of his critics (see ODNB; Suffolk); Northumberland; Cambridgeshire

Aubert, Alexander (bap. 1730, d. 1805), born in London and educated at Cheam Academy, Surrey, before spending the rest of his childhood in Genoa in Italy.  Here, the Great Comet of 1744 inspired his interest in astronomy.  A career as a successful merchant, becoming director of the London Assurance Company, allowed him to pursue his interests in astronomy, establishing two observatories in Deptford and Highbury, both London (ODNB;  Lynn 1900) – see Aubert’s Observatory below.

Bishop, George (1785-1861), born Leicester, wine merchant and astronomer who established an observatory at his home (ODNB) – see Bishop’s Observatory, Regent’s Park.

Carpenter, James (1840-1899) born in Greenwich, was a professional astronomer at the Royal Observatory for 18 years. From 1867 he was responsible to Airy for the ‘Physical Astronomy’ at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, making spectroscopic observations. Colleague and co-author with James Nasmyth (1874) of The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite. Their ‘volcanic fountain’ theory of crater formation was deeply flawed (Leatherbarrow 2013).

Babbage, Charles (1791–1871), born London.  Mathematician and computer pioneer he was involved in establishment of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820.  Babbage occupied  various roles in the society (secretaries, 1820–4 &, 2 7-9;  vice president, 1824 25 and was awarded their gold medal in 1824 for his calculating engine (ODNB).

Barclay, Joseph Gurney [FRAS](1816-1898), in 1861 he sold his 7½-inch Cooke refractor, and established the Leyton Observatory (1862-86) – see Barclay Observatory.

Bliss, Nathanial [Revd.] (1700-64), fourth Astronomer Royal 1762-64, held office insufficient time to make an impact (see ODNBGloucestershire).

Bradley, James (1693-1762), born Surrey – His observations using a 12½-foot zenith sector at Pond’s Observatory, Wanstead, Essex, between 1725 and 1747 led him to discover aberration and nutation. Appointed third Astronomer Royal 1742-62, he ordered an 8-foot brass mural quadrant and 8-foot transit by John Bird. This transit defined the Greenwich meridian from 1750 to 1816. In 1750 these instruments and Bradley’s zenith sector were mounted in a new observatory building. He began a catalogue of some 60,000 stars and achieved unprecedented accuracy. This was due in part to his devising improvements to instruments – improving Flamstead’s micrometers, obtaining better pendulum regulators for time, and having the quadrants made of one metal, brass, but especially to his identifying and correcting for instrument error (his new standard of observing method), observer error, temperature, and applying corrections for aberration and nutation to the reduction. Thus he achieved an accuracy to 1 arc second in declination and 1/6th of a second of time in RA., an improved accuracy for declination measurements of 60-fold compared to Tycho, and 10-fold since Flamstead in 1690. Bradley by these means made a crucial contribution to reforming useful astronomy, and established the ROG’s enduring reputation. It was this standard of accuracy, when applied after 1771 to observing the orbit of newly discovered Uranus, revealed its perturbations, and led in 1846 to the sensational prediction by le Verrier and discovery of Neptune (see; ‘Pure Research and Practical teaching: the Astronomical Career of James Bradley, 1693-1762’, Notes & Records Royal Soc., London, 47 [2], (1993), 205-212; ODNB; Gloucestershire; Surrey; Essex; Oxfordshire

Bayly, William (1737-1810), born at Bishops Cannings, near Devizes (see Hampshire;  ODNB).

Beaufoy, Mark (1764–1827), astronomer and physicist, was born Lambeth, London.  He was taught by William Bayly, who probably instilled his lifelong interest in mathematics and astronomy.  Between 1795 and 1815 he made observations from Hackney Wick and then from Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire from 1818-1827 both using the same five-foot Dollond refractor.  The latter observations were of the satellites of Jupiter which were published by the Royal Astronomical society (see ODNB)

Breen, James (1826–1866), FRAS, son of Hugh Breen, English astronomer, was born in Ireland and died at his home in Nunhead, London, aged only 40. An active observer at the Cambridge Observatory from 1846, he left the observatory in 1858, soon after observing Donati’s comet. For an excellent biographical sketch see lan Seymour, AN (Aug. 2001), p.74.

Browne, Henry (1754-1830), astronomer who assisted Captain Kater and Edward Sabine in their experiments in magnetism and pendulums.  Established an observatory at his home at 2 Portland Place (‘Deaths’, Gent Mag, 147  (1830), p.571) – see Browne’s Observatory.

Butler, Charles Pritchard  (1871-1952), Career in Solar Physics Observatory, London & Cambridge as Senior Assistant Observer 1889-1937, also a Director of BAA Solar Section (see Warwickshire; Obit., MNRAS, 113, p.294)

Capron, John Rand (1829-1888), born on 19th February in King Street (now Rufus Street), Hoxton Square, Shoreditch London. (See Surrey)

Christie, William Henry Mahoney (1845-1922), born at Woolwich, educated at Cambridge, became chief Assistant at Greenwich in 1870 – eighth Astronomer Royal (1881-1910).  He modernised the Observatory, adopted aspects of astrophysics, founded The Observatory Magazine and attracted the gift of the Thompson and Yapp telescopes. An excellent obituary by H.H. Turner paints vivid picture of the ROG being on the verge of stagnation in a fast moving international context for astronomy, and the difference that Christie made (see Observatory (March 1922), 77-81, available on-line). Christie engaged with astrophysics, built the new Physical Observatory, and attracted the donation of the Thompson double telescopes. Turner credits him with reasserting the link between mathematics and astronomy by bringing high wranglers in to the Chief Assistant posts, to the great long-term benefit of British astronomy (ODNB; Cambridgeshire.

Cowell, Philip Herbert (1870-1949), born 7 August in Calcutta, India to a father from Ipswich and mother from Aldeburgh, Suffolk.  Educated privately in Stoke Poges (1881-3), then as a ‘Kings Scholar’ at Eton School (1884-9), where he won the Tomline Prize for mathematics. This prize was endowed by George Tomline of Orwell Park (see Tomline entry on Suffolk page ). Cowell graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge (1889–92) as ‘Senior Wrangler’, having worked on celestial mechanics, then elected as a Fellow of the College in 1894. Appointed as ‘Second Chief Assistant’ at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich in 1895 and (see London page) elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1896. Later in 1906 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society for his work on lunar theory.  In 1910 Cowell was appointed as ‘Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac Office’ and then in At the precise (to the hour) age of sixty he retired from employment in 1930 and lived in Aldeburgh up until his death on 6 June 1949.(see Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, 6 (18) Nov. 1949, 375-84) & Obit MNRAS, 110 (2) 1950, 125-8); (ODNB) – see Suffolk page.

Coventry, John (1735-1812), born in Southwark, London. He was a friend of Benjamin Franklin, who appears to have consulted him on questions connected with electrical apparatus. He was the inventor of a new hygrometer, more accurate than any which had been previously in use. He is known to have made a 12-foot refracting telescope which he used to observe the 1769 transit of Venus (ODNB).

Crommelin, Andrew Claude de la Cherois [Dr; FRAS] 1865-1939) born at Cushendun, Ulster in Ireland (see Antrim; ODNB; Obs, 63 [1940], 11-13).

Crosthwait, Joseph (1681-1719), chief assistant at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, with Abraham Sharp, completed the publication of Flamsteed’s Historica Coelestis…. after his death (Forbes 1975).

Dawes, William Rutter [Revd.] (1799-1868), born Christ’s Hospital school, London. He, trained as a doctor before becoming an Independent minister, in Ormskirk. By 1828 he befriended Lassell in Liverpool and observed with him. Although short-sighted himself, he was gifted with exceptionally keen eyesight at the telescope, which he complemented by great skill and persistence in observing method, earning the title ‘eagle-eyed’. Alvan Clark greatly valued his opinion and the recommendation of his object glasses., he specialised in extremely precise micrometrical observations of double stars, 222 between 1831 and 1838 at his own observatories, another 250 when an assistant at Bishop’s Observatory (1839-44), working the 7-inch Dollond Observatory. He also observed planets, discovered Saturn’s crepe or C ring in 1850. Always dogged by poor health, Dawes again exerted himself for the very favourable opposition of Mars in 1864 and drew the best-to-date map. He was awarded the RAS Gold Medal in 1855. He was a very close friend of John Herschel and his family, and for some years they lived near each other in Kent  (ODNB; Obit., MNRAS, 29 (1868), 116-20Denning 1913; see Kent; Lancashire).

Davidson, Martin  [Revd.] (1880-1968), born Armagh, Northern Ireland.  Studying mathematics he specialised in orbital dynamics and thence the orbits of meteors at Queens University, Belfast before  entering the church. After various posting around England he was appointed vicar in Canning Town, London in 1925 which he held until retirement in 1953. Joining both the British Astronomical Association (1911), president (1936-8), and the Royal Astronomical Society (1914),  he observed with a 4-inch refractor and 12-inch reflector (see ArmaghObit. Irish Astronomical Journal, 9, 170; Obit., JBAA, 79 [3] (1969), 246; Stroobant 1931).

Dee, John (1527-1608) born in Tower Ward, London, educated at Chelmsford and Cambridge. At Mortlake he established a library and collection of astronomical instruments (ODNB).

De la Rue, Warren (1815-89), established an observatory (1849-57) at Canonbury, then  Cranford (1857-73) – see  Middlesex page.

Dennett, Frank Compton (1857-1926), lived in Hackney (1891-1926), insurance agent, science/astronomical writer and lecturer  (see Hampshire).

Doig, Peter [FRAS] (1882-1952), born Glasgow, trained as a ship’s draughtsman, working in Shanghai before ill-heath forced his return to Britain in 1918.  At this time he took up astronomy joining both the BAA and RAS becoming active in each society.  His main interest lay in stellar astronomy, using his considerable knowledge  he contributed to Splendour of the Heavens. Later he published on stellar astronomy (1947) and the history of astronomy (1950).  Living in London he observed with a 3-inch refractor and 5-inch reflector (Stroobant 1931; Obit., JBAA, 63 (1953), 76-7; Obit., MNRAS, 113 (1953), 304-5).

Dyson, Frank Watson (1868-1939), born Measham, Leicestershire, educated in Yorkshire then Trinity, Cambridge. The ninth Astronomer Royal (1910-33), a noted eclipse observer and expert on the solar corona, in 1924 he inaugurated the wireless broadcast of accurate GMT by wireless ‘pips’. Dyson rose to the great opportunity of the 1919 eclipse to prove Einstein’s theory, and succeeded (see ODNB; Leicestershire).

Ebdon, John (1923-2005), He was introduced to astronomy at a young age by his childhood nanny whose enthusiasm for the subject far exceeded her observational abilities. John continued this interest that he learnt for her for the rest of his life. Following an extremely unhappy Public School education John served in the Second World War in the Royal Air Force. He was caught in the blast of an explosion and his eyes were permanently injured. He was thus not able to taken up his chosen profession of theatre actor as he was unable to cope with the bright theatre lights. Post-war he spent five years working in Kenya, connected with big game hunting and wildlife. John was firstly Narrator (1960) and then Director (1968) of the London Planetarium which was located adjacent to Madame Tussauds Waxwork Museum on Baker Street. In 1963 John wrote 94 page book entitled “Teach Your Child about the Stars”. John had a second life as a broadcaster for 26 years on BBC Radio 4 presenting a programme of archive material. He would begin with “How do you do” and finish with “If you have been, thank you for listening”. In order to avoid being prosecuted when broadcasting material of a controversial nature Ebdon would attribute the thoughts to his cat ‘Perseus’. When ‘Perseus’ died in 1978 it made the national news (ODNB)

Evans, Lewis [Revd.] (1755-1827), born Bassaleg, Monmouthshire, studied at Merton College, Oxford in 1774, but left without a degree. Ordained and appointed as curate first in Ashbury then Compton, both in Berkshire and lastly at Froxfield, Wiltshire. In 1799 was appointed first mathematical master at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich which he held until 1820. During the latter part of his life he turned to astronomy and he possessed several valuable instruments and was a skilful and successful observer, having his own private observatory on Woolwich Common. He was elected fellows of both the Royal Society (1823) and the Royal Astronomical Society (ODNB).

Fisher, George [Revd.] (1794-1873), born Sunbury, Middlesex, son of a surveyor.  In 1808 he became a clerk in an insurance company at the age of 14. The encouragement of Humphrey Davy and other scientist allowed Fisher to enter St Catherine’s College, Cambridge in 1817. On the recommendation of the Royal Society, he was then appointed as one of two astronomers on the ad miralty Arctic Expedition of 1818.  His role was to take observations for the determination of the Earth’s shape, the results of which were presented, and well received. Fisher again travelled with the Royal Navy expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1825 and then to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1827. He became a headmaster of the Royal Hospital School at Greenwich in 1834 and supervised the planning and construction of an observatory. Some of his astronomical observations were presented at the Royal Astronomical Society, including the transit of Mercury on the 5th May 1832 (Fisher, G., MNRAS, 2 [14] (1832), p.111). Fisher retired to Rugby, Warwickshire in 1863 where he lived until his death (ODNB); see Middlesex).

Flamstead, John (1646-1720), born Derbyshire – first Astronomer Royal (1675-1720), his catalogue of 2,935 tripled the catalogue of Tycho Brahe. He had a 7-foot iron equatorial sextant by Edmund Silvester and Thomas Tompion, two Tompion clocks, and a 3-foot wooden quadrant. These were barely adequate, but provided the data for Newton to derive his refraction tables, and enabled Newton to formulate his theory of lunar motion for Principia (1687). In 1689 an inheritance from his father enabled Flamstead to obtain a 7-foot mural arc by Abraham Sharp.  Flamstead’s new observations (see ODNB); Derbyshire)

Foster, Edgar William (18 Feb. 1904 – 1987), born Luton, Foster worked at the University of London Observatory at Mill Hill from 1952. He held the post of lecturer from 1953 and  observed several total solar eclipses; from Syd Koster in Sweden on 1954 June 30. Ceylon on 1955 June 20 and Canary Islands on 1959 October 2 (see Mill Hill Observatory).

Fowler, Alfred (1868-1940), born Wilsden, Yorkshire. Educated at the Normal School of Science (later Imperial College). He was assistant and later professor working with Sir Norman Lockyer. An expert spectroscopist, he proved that sunspots are cooler than the surrounding gas (see Yorkshire: North RidingODNB).

Freeman, Alexander (1838-1897) born in Blackheath (Wonersch), Surrey (see Cambridgeshire).

Glaisher, James (1809-1903), meteorologist at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, (see Cambridgeshire; Buckinghamshire & ODNB).

Goodacre, Walter (1856-1938), born Loughborough, he spent his working life in London in family business, carpet merchants and manufacturers, retiring to Bournmouth in 1929. 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 (see Leicestershire & Hampshire Obit., MNRAS, 99 (1939), 310-1).

Goodson, Howard  (b.1881-w.1911), born Armley, Leeds, Yorkshire, astronomer at Solar Physics Observatory, South Kensington, London (see below) and Norman Lockyer Observatory (see Yorkshire: West Riding; 1911  English census; ‘Sic Itur AD Astra: A history of the Norman Lockyer Observatory’, JBAA, 25, 25-8).

Green, Charles (1735-1771), born Swinton. In 1761 appointed assistant to Bradley at the ROG. In 1763 he sailed with his assistant Rev. Neville Maskelyne to Barbados to test John Harrison’s fourth timekeeper. Returning to London in 1764, Green found that Astronomer Royal; Bliss had just died. He immediately continued his observations, only to find that Maskelyne obtained the appointment as Astronomer Royal. Green fell out with him, resigned, and joined the Navy. In 1769 at the recommendation of the Royal Society, Green sailed with James Cook on HMS Endeavour, to observe the 1769 Transit of Venus from Tahiti. Disappointingly, discrepancies in results from around the world caused the recording of the Venus transit to be declared a failure. Cook’s voyages as a whole were a huge success though, due to the pioneering anthropological, botanical and zoological work, and the vast improvements in navigation at sea. Cook and Green’s historical drawings of the transit of Venus are preserved for posterity at the Armagh Observatory. Green died of fever two years later. A monument marks the place at Venus Point, Tahiti, where the observations of the transit of Venus were conducted by Cook and Green in 1769 (see Yorkshire: West RidingODNB).

Green, Nathaniel Everett (1823-1899), born Bristol, privately educated first working in a merchants office in Liverpool before taking up a career in fine art.  As a student at the Royal Academy, London in 1844 he met many of the Pre-raphaelite artist but took-up art teaching to support his growing family.  Whith an interest  in astronomy he owned several telescope and established observatories  at two addresses in Circus Road (3 & 39), St. John’s Wood.He was elected to the RAS in 1875 and was a founder member of the BAA and director of their Saturn Section [1891-3 & 95-9] (Obit., MNMRAS, 60 (1900), 318-20; McKim 2004).

Groombridge, Stephen (1755-1832) was born at Goudhurst. Established his Blackheath Observatory 1806 (ODNB).

Halley, Edmond (1656-1742) – born in Haggerston (a village since engulfed by Hackney), Shoreditch. Educated St Paul’s School, and Queen’s College, Oxford. As an undergraduate he published papers on sunspots, and the solar system, and in vacations observed with Flamstead at Greenwich. After leaving Oxford in 1676 Halley was financed by his father for a two-year expedition to St Helena, and with an aerial telescope of 24-feet focal length he made a catalogue of 341 southern stars (published 1678) to complement Flamstead’s northern catalogue. Halley was a highly productive polymath, and made numerous contributions to the Royal Society concerning weather systems, compasses, and the structure of the Earth. In 1703, despite his known atheism, he was appointed Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford. In 1682, just after his marriage, a great comet appeared and Halley observed it from London. In 1705 his study of historical records of comet sightings let him to publish a prediction of the return of the comet of 1682 in 1758 – now known as Halley’s Comet. Without acknowledging the method proposed by James Gregory in his Optica Promota, in 1716 Halley proposed a high-precision measurement of the Earth-Sun distance by long base-line observations of a Transit of Venus. In 1718 he discovered the proper motion of a few bright stars, including Arcturus and Sirius.
In 1720 he became second Astronomer Royal, but had attacked Flamstead and so angered his widow that she removed all his instruments from the Royal Observatory. Halley commissioned the first transit instrument and devised a method for determining longitude at sea by means of lunar observations. Despite being aged 64, he undertook to observe the Moon through one complete 18-year cycle of revolution of its nodes – and accomplished that! Earlier observations of the Moon had been made only at conjunction or at opposition to the Sun and it was these earlier observations on which Newton’s lunar theory had been based. Halley’s other most notable scientific achievements were his detection of the “long inequality” of Jupiter and Saturn, and of the acceleration of the moon’s mean motion (1693), his theory of variation (1683), including the hypothesis of four magnetic poles, and his suggestion of the magnetic origin of the aurora borealis. Halley died in post in 1742 at the age of 85 (see ODNB; Oxfordshire).

Hartnup, John (1841-1892), was born in Somerset House, London (see Lancashire Page)

Hepburn, Patrick Henry [FRAS] (1873-1929), born London, educated at Chaterhouse and Amersham Hall Scool near Reading, qualifying as a solicitor in 1894. Active in the BAA from this period, Saturn section head (1912) and president ( 1921-3) and the Hampstead Scientific Society and its observatory. He joined the RAS in 1911 serving on its council (1922-9). Living in Hampstead he erected a private observatory housing a 12-inch Calver reflector formerly owned by Arthur Cottam (Obit., MNRAS, 90 (1930), 366-9; Obit.,  JBAA, 40 (1930), 166-8).

Herapath, John (1790-1868), born Bristol 1790, to a maltster, he entered his father’s business, though managed to find time to study mathematics and physics. In about 1815 he opened a mathematical academy at Knowle Hill in Bristol. He submitted many papers to learned societies on various subjects relating to physics and mathematics. One such paper was review by Sir Humphry Davy which was rejected as he was uncomfortable with the implication that there was an absolute zero of temperature at which all motion ceased. There is little documented about his astronomical pursuits, but he is credited with discovering the great comet of 1831, on 7th January 1831 (MNRAS, 2 [1] (1831) , p.6). He describes the comet thus: ‘The tail was then nearly perpendicular to the horizon, inclining towards the south, and of a white colour, apparently between 1 degree and 2 degree long. The head was of the same colour as the tail, but, in proportion, far more splendid. To me, it appeared to equal in light stars of the second magnitude, while it exceeded them in size.’ As a journalist Herapath published his own journal and was a controversial figure.  After transferring the editorship to his son he retired from journalism, dying at Catford Bridge, Lewisham, London in 1868 (ODNB).

Herschel, Alexander Stewart (1836–1907), born Feldhausen, nr. Cape Town, the 5th child of Sir John Herschel.  After private education and tuition at Clapham Grammer School he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge graduating in 1859.  Later he studied at the Royal School of Mines, London (1861-5), then natural philosophy lecturer at Anderson’s College, Glasgow (1866-71) and the chair of physics and experimental philosophy in the University of Durham College of Science, Newcastle upon Tyne (1871-86).  During this time he pursued his lifelong interest in meteors, using spectroscopy to determine their composition.  After 1886 he moved to Observatory House, Slough where he remained for the remainder of his life (see Buckinghamshire; LanarkshireODNB; Obid. MNRAS, 68 (1908), 231-3).

Hind, John Russell (1823-1895), born in Nottingham, trained at the ROG, in 1844 became Observer at Bishop’s Observatory in Regent’s Park. He discovered 11 asteroids, the 1848 nova in Ophiucus, and his ‘variable nebula’ around T Tauri. He computed many cometary orbits, and from 1853 was superintendent of the Nautical Almanac. At Bishop’s Regent’s Park Observatory he mentored Norman Pogson. Hind, beside John Herschel and Dawes, was known to be one of the finest observers of his day see (see ODNB) – see Nottinghamshire page.

Hollis, Henry Park (1858-1939), educated at Westminster School, London and Jesus College Cambridge.  He worked as an assistant astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, under Christie and Maunder.  Associated with foundation of the British Astronomical Association and served as president, 1908-1910 (‘Obit.’, MNRAS, 100 (1940), 249-50).

Holehouse, Samuel (1791-fl.1846), born Middlesex. Amateur astronomer living in Islington, London, member of the Royal Astronomical Society (‘List of the Fellows of the Society’, MNRAS, 16 (1847), p.567), who reported his occultation observations made a with 7-foot refractor on 23 Oct. 1831 (‘Observations…’MNRAS, 2 [7] (1831), p.43).

Hooke, Robert (1635–1703), born Freshwater, Isle of Wight where he spent part of his childhood before moving to Oxford and then London.  Appointed curator of instruments for the newly established Royal Society of London he was later appointed professor of geometry of Gresham College in 1664. Here in 1669 he established an observatory (see below) to try and measure Stellar Parallax – see below (ODNB).

Hough, Sydney Samuel (1870-1923), born in Stoke Newington, educated St John’s, Cambridge, third wrangler. He achieved the most important work on the theory of tides since Laplace. Chief Assistant at the Cape, 1898 and succeeded David Gill as H.M. Astronomer in 1906. He produced two catalogues of meridian observations, and worked on radial velocities and proper motions (‘Obit’, Obs 46 [1923], p. 269-72).

Huddart, Joseph (1741–1816), born at Allonby, Cumberland.  A Captain, hydrographer and engineer, who had an interest in astronomy and naval architecture (ODNB).

Huggins, Sir William (1824-1910), born in St Peter’s, Cornhill, City of London. Achieved fame as a spectroscopist. It is not to detract from his remarkable contributions to note that in recent years Barbara Becker has established that his wife Margaret (née Lindsay in Dublin) was a full collaborator, the one who brought photography to their work, and mastered its techniques, although all their papers were published in his name alone. Huggins and his wife Margaret Huggins (1848-1915) established the Tulse Hill Observatory, Lambeth (ODNB) – see Huggins Observatory.

Hunter, Alan (1912-1995), born East Ham, London and  educated at East Ham Grammer School. Graduated in Physics from Imperial College, London in 1931, where he remained studying spectroscopy obtaining a Phd in 1937.  Appointed Assistant at Greenwich Observatory in the same as head of Astrometry & Astrophysics. Hunter worked on stellar proper motions of faint members of the Hyades star cluster for six months at the Mount Wilson Observatory during 1959 & 1960.  Undertook the role of acting director of RGO Herstmonceux [1973 & 1976] (see Obit,. QJRAS, 37 [3] (1996), 457-9).

Jamieson, Alexander (1782-1850) – writer, teacher, and author of his Celestial Atlas (1822), a popular successor to Flamstead’s Atlas Coelestis – was born in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, but his working life was in London, and he was a member of the Astronomical Society of London 1826-33. He lived off Oxford Street, then in Kensington where he had his own school, then by 1824 in Hounslow, and from 1826-38 he had his own Wyke House School in Sion Hill; however he went bankrupt, and then worked as an actuary but his health broke and he descended into poverty. The definitive note on him is Ian Ridpath (‘Alexander Jamieson, celestial map maker’, A&G, 54 [1] (Feb. 2013), 22-3). Ridpath shows that where Flamstead’s work was expensive and inaccessible to the public, Jamieson later aimed for an affordable edition in English. Despite his denials, he followed the size and arrangement of Johann Bode’s atlas of 1805 (second edition). However, where earlier atlases had closely followed Flamstead’s depictions of the constellation figures, Jamieson’s figures were more appealing. More than 100 constellations are featured on 30 charts or plates. Facsimilies of Jamieson’s charts were published in 1989 in Men, Monsters and the Modern Universe by George Lovi and Wil Tirion. The RAS Library has a copy of the second edition (1805).

Jones, Sir Harold Spencer (1890-1960), born Kensington,  tenth Astronomer Royal (1933-55). In ten years at the Cape from 1923-33 he did important work in stellar catalogues and radial velocities. At the ROG he redetermined the solar parallax from world-wide observations of Eros 1930-31. He brought into operation two important new instruments: the 36-inch Yapp Reflector (1932) and the reversible transit circle, which replaced Airy’s instrument of 1850. Major new programmes addressed latitude variation, and more accurate time. He instigated the move from Greenwich to Herstmonceux, and played a key role in specifying and obtaining the Isaac Newton 100-inch reflector (ODNB).

Knobel, Edward Ball (1841-1930), born in Baker Street, London. Interested in astronomy as a child, in the 1860s he purchased a 3-inch refractor, and in 1872 an 8½-inch Browning reflector. He made many observations of planets, the Sun and Moon, and specialised in photometry, and made micrometer measurements of doubles. His last observations were of Mars in 1884. he became President of the BAA in 1910 (see ODNB).

Lawson, Henry (1774-1855), born in Greenwich, lived in Hereford – see Somerset.

Lockyer, Sir John Norman (1836-1920) – see St John’s Wood Observatory (1869-71); Solar Physics Observatory (1879-1911) below; and Sidmouth Observatory (Devon Page).

Maskelyne, Nevil [Revd.] (1732-1811) – fifth Astronomer Royal 1765. In 1766 he founded and published the first issue of the Nautical Almanac (i.e. for the year 1767). This proved to be a most valuable aid to navigation and Maskelyne was personally responsible for its annual publication for 44 years until his death (ODNB).

McNally, Derek (1934-2020) [Dr] retired Director of ULO described Foster as following;  ‘He was a great builder of spectrographs – somewhat in the style of Heath Robinson. But they worked well and he measured many spectra to useful effect – transition probabilities’.  In retirement Foster died in Birmingham, 1987 (see below – Mill Hill Observatory).

Marth, Albert (1828-1897), born Kolberg, Pomerania, educated  at Berlin University he gained a position at Konigsberg Observatory.   In 1853 he became assistant to Hind at the  Bishop’s Observatory in Regent Park, London.  He then in 1855 succeeded Rumker as  the University Observatory, Durham a post he held until 1862.  He was subsequently employed by Lassell in Malta, Newall in Newcastle before moving to Markree Observatory in Ireland for the remainder of his career (ODNB; Obit., MNRAS, (1898), 139-42).

Maunder [nee Russell], Annie Scott Dill (1868-1947), born County Tyrone, Ireland, educated in Belfast and Girton College, Cambridge. Appointed a computer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich where she meet her husband E.W. Maunder. Despite having to resign her position in 1895 after her marriage she continued to collaborate with her husband’s work, taking part in several solar eclipse expeditions (ODNB; Obit., JBAA, 57 (1947), 238).

Maunder, Edward Walter (1851-1928), born St Pancras.  In 1873 he was appointed to head the Solar Section of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. He is now best remembered for his study of sunspots (ODNB).

Merton, Gerald (1893-1983), born in London, educated Trinity College, Cambridge. Joined the BAA and the RAS in 1922, and served both devotedly. Returned to take a PhD at Cambridge, and mastered computing. Encouraged by Dyson he was a volunteer observer for some years at the ROG. In 1940 he moved to Oxford, and from 1946 was a volunteer in the University Observatory. He published 20 major papers, and was an expert on comets and meteors (Dewhirst 1996).

Morgan, Augustus De (1806–1871), born in Madura, India and moved to Britain at the age of ten.  After being privately educated he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in Mathematics.  As Mathematician and Historian he was involved the establishment of the Royal Astronomical Society.  He wrote extensively on the history of astronomy and mathematics (ODNB).

Parr, William Alfred (1865-1936), born in Hampstead, London (see Hertfordshire).

Plummer, William Edward (1849-1928), born near Greenwich at Depford. Trained at the ROG as a computer, and qualifying as an observer on the transit, in 1868 he joined Bishop’s Regent’s Park Observatory. In 1874 Plummer was appointed First Assistant at the new University of Oxford Observatory. In 1892, Plummer was appointed director of the Bidston Observatory, and remained there until his death – see Cheshire.

Pond, John (1767-1836), born in London, sixth Astronomer Royal (1811-35). He gained the appointment because of his reputation as an excellent practical astronomer who had analysed the errors of the ROG’s quadrant. He reformed the observatory and its practices, but his tenure was ruined by poor health and lack of control of his assistants. Latterly the ROG failed to generate, reduce, and print each year the accurate observations essential to the Nautical Almanac (ODNB).

Pogson, Norman (1829-1891), second assistant (1850-2) at Bishop’s Observatory (ODNB; see below) see Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire.

Pope, Walter (bap. 1628-1714), born Northamptonshire he obtained a degree from Wadham College, Oxford in 1649.  Both a poet and astronomer he succeeded Sir Christopher Wren to the chair of astronomy at Gresham College London in 1660. He both observed and lectured on the motion of the heavens (ODNB), Ward 1740).

Proctor, Mary (1862-1957), born Dublin, Ireland, daughter of Richard Proctor (see below) who to the United States with her Father.  Best known as an astronomy popularizer  writing numerous books on the subject. Not an observer she resided in America until after the First World War when she moved to London where she remained for the remainder of her life (ODNB).

Proctor, Richard Anthony (1837-1888), born Cheyne Row, Chelsea. Astronomer and science writer (Noble 1888; Ranyard 1889; ODNB).

Riddle, Edward (1788–1854), born at Troughend in Northumberland (see Durham).

Robbins, Frank (1860-1933) [FRAS], born Holloway, London, educated in the city and worked for the Corporation of London all his life. In addition to being an amateur observer he undertook calculations in celestial mechanics.  Active in both the BAA and the RAS (Obit., MNRAS, 109 (1946), 33-4).

Rogerson, William (1796-1853), born in Pocklington in Yorkshire.  Appointed as fifth Assistant at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, by John Pond in 1825 on the recommendation of William Richardson, also from Pocklington, who was already working at the observatory (see RGO website).

Saunder, Samuel A. (1852 – 1912), born in London, educated at St Paul’s School, then Trinity College, Cambridge – see Berkshire.

Sellers, Francis John (1875-1959), born London, he received little education before taking up engineering and later having formal training at Finsbury Technical College. Though interested in astronomy from an early age, he did not follow it seriously until 1909 when he constructed his first telescope. He converted the attic of his home in Muswell Hill into an observatory and constructed a heliospectroscope based on Hale example at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich (Stroobant 1931; Obit., QJRAS, 1 (1960), 242-4; Obit., JBAA, 70 (1960), 235-8).

Shackleton, William (1871-1921), born Keighley, 1891 an assistant at the Solar Physics Observatory, London, eclipse expeditions, sometime assistant to Andrew Common (see Obit., MNRAS, 82 (1922), 255-6).

Short, James (1710-68), optical instrument maker with an observatory – see below (ODNB) – see Midlothian.

Smyth, William Henry [Admiral] (1788-1865), was born in Westminster, London. In 1830 he established a private observatory at Bedford. An active observer, his book Cycle of Celestial Objects encouraged and the setting up of observatories for those able to afford 5 and 6 inch refractors, and the work they could usefully do. In particular this bore fruit as “the Hartwell Synod” of observatories centred on Dr John Lee’s Hartwell house. Smyth was very influential in the RAS Council. His son-in-law was Professor Baden Powell of Oxford. His son Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900) was a brilliant but eccentric and somewhat controversial Astronomer Royal for Scotland 1844-1900.
Smyth suffered a heart attack at his home near Aylesbury in early September, 1865, and at first seemed to recover. On 8 September he showed the planet Jupiter to his young grandson, Arthur Smyth Flower, through a telescope. A few hours later in the early morning of 9 September, at age 78, he died. He was buried in the churchyard at Stone nearAylesbury, where the rector had been his friend and an observatory owning member of the Synod (see Bedfordshire; GlamorganBuckinghamshire – Smyth’s Bedford Observatory; and ‘the Hartwell Synod’; ODNB)

South, Sir James (1785–1867) born in Southwark . He was co-founder of the Astronomical Society of London. He established an observatory at Blackman Street, Southward, 1816-24. In 1826 he planned a larger instrument and purchased a site on Campden Hill, Kensington. Brunel built the tower and dome. South had bought an 11.8-inch glass from Cauchoix for about £1,000 – it would at the time have made the largest refractor in the world. South got in to an acrimonious dispute with Edward Troughton over the mount, and the instrument was never completed. He donated the glass to the Dunsink Observatory, where it was mounted by Thomas Grubb as the South Refractor (ODNB).

Steavenson, William Herbert (1894-1975), born in the Cotswolds and despite losting
vision in his right eye in a childhood accident he became a surgeon. While still at school (Cheltenham) in 1911 he made an independent discovery of comet C/1911 S2. Main astronomical interests were in variable stars, planets and their satellites, and comets. Elected FRAS 1912 (president 1957-195; Jackson-Gwilt Medal 1928). Gresham Professor of Astronomy. He observed with a 6-inch Wray refractor from his home in West Norwood  (Obit., QJRAS, 18, 147-154).

Stone, Edward James (1831-1897) born in London. He was educated at King’s College, London, then Queen’s College, Cambridge, where despite poor health he graduated fifth wrangler in 1859. In 1860 he was appointed Chief Assistant at the ROG to succeed Robert Main. Never keen on observing, and unable to endure the rigours of night work, he concentrated on theoretical astronomy, and during ten years at Greenwich greatly improved some fundamental constants by re-examining observations. In 1870 he succeeded Thomas Maclear as astronomer at the Cape. By ten years hard work he produced the Cape Catalogue of 12,441 stars. He was anxious to return to England, and by Airy’s influence was appointed Radcliffe Observer in 1879. However, he found the observatory obsolete, with no hope of new investment, and was condemned to oversee his assistants making second-class meridian observations by the eye-and-ear method, which could not bear comparison to the work at the ROG. Therefore he directed some of the Radcliffe Observatory’s resources to producing a useful work, the Radcliffe Catalogue for 1890 of 6,424 stars between the equator and -25° Dec., published 1894 (ODNB).

Stratford, William Samuel (1789-1853), born in Eltham, Surrey.  During his schooldays in London, he exhibited exceptional mathematical abilities.  He joined the Royal Navy in 1806 under the command of Sir Sydney Smith, retiring at half-pay with the rank of lieutenant. Stratford was one of the earliest and most active members of the Royal Astronomical Society, acting as secretary from 1825-1831, then vice-president and council member. Amongst his contributions, he performed one set of the duplicate calculations for the original catalogue of the Royal Astronomical Society, then calculated and published an appendix to the Nautical Almanac on the orbit of Halley’s Comet. In 1831 he was appointed Superintendent of HM Nautical Almanac Office, the role he occupied until his death.  In 1832 he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society (Obit, MNRAS,  14 (1854), 115-6ODNB).

Talmage, George (1840-86), observer (1860-77) at Bishop’s Observatory (Obit. MNRAS, 47 (1887), 142-3) – see below.

Thackeray, A. David (1910-1978), born in Chelsea, educated at Eton and King’s College, Cambridge. While still at school he was an active observer for the variable star section of the BAA. After graduating in 1932 he worked at the Solar Physics Observatory, on the problem of the intensity of Fraunhofer lines in spectra. From 1937-48, apart from service in the Friends Ambulance Unit, he was Chief Assistant at the SPO. In 1948 he was appointed Chief Assistant at the Radcliffe Observatory, Pretoria, where the 74″ reflector was coming in to service as the largest reflector in the southern hemisphere. He devoted himself to its full exploitation, and in 1950 succeeded Knox-Shaw as director until the site closed in 1974. His work gained him credit, that ‘He, more than any other single person, opened up the southern hemisphere to modern astrophysics’ (Feast 1979).

Todd, Sir Charles [KCMG, FRS] (7 July 1826 – 29 January 1910) born in Islington, worked at Greenwich (ODNB).

Tyer, Edward (1830-1912), born Kennington, London (6 Feb.), educated at City of London School and then privately at Mr. Dempster’s School near, Chiswick. Through his scientific knowledge he followed a career in electrical engineering being a pioneer in electrical signalling used in railways. His interest in astronomy developed through contact with the Astronomer Royal, George Biddell Airy when the Royal Observatory, Greenwich was being added to the new telegraphic networks for time signals – distribution of GMT. For many years Tyer had a well-equipped private observatory, living in London, Holdenhurst, Hampshire and Surrey. In addition to being a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers Tyer was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He died on Christmas Day 1912, aged 82 and was buried at Busbridge, Surrey (Obit., MNRAS, 74 (1914), p.280).

Wharton, Sir William James Lloyd (1843-1905), born in London.  A Naval officer and hydrographer with an interest in astronomy who observed both the 1874 & 1882 transit of Venus.  He died at the Cape Observatory as a guest of Sir David Gill during a visit by the British Association (‘Obit.’, MNRAS, 66, p.179 ; ODNB).

Whitaker, Ewen A. (b.1922), born Woolwich, a professional astronomer at Greenwich. BAA Lunar Section director 1956-1958, when he joined Gerard Kuiper at Yerkes, and then at Kuiper’s Lunar & Planetary Institute in Arizona where he became a leader in lunar studies, assisting in the drawing of maps used by NASA for the Apollo missions (Bill Leatherbarrow, ‘The Amateur’s Moon’, JBAA, 123, 3 (June 2013), pp. 148-9).

Wollaston, William Hyde (1766-1828), born East Derham, Norfolk, achemist, physicist, and physiologist with an interest in astronomy. Educated at in Lewisham and at Charterhouse School (1774–8) he went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.  Better remembered for chemical research on the metal platinum, he also first observed absorption (Frauhofer) lines in the Sun in 1802 (see Norfolk; Obit., MNRAS, 1 (1829), p.102; ODNB).

Wrottesley, John, [second Baron Wrottesley] (1798–1867), built an Observatory in Blackheath and later at Staffordshire.