Westmeath

Astronomers

Gore, John Ellard (1845-1910) was born in Athlone. As J. Ellard Gore he was a prolific author of popular books, variable star observer and discoverer, and the first Director of the BAA Variable Star Section 1890-99. He also calculated the orbits of many binary stars. He demonstrated that the companion of Sirius, thought by many to be a dark body, was in fact self-luminous. In doing so he provided the first indication of the enormous density of what later became known as white dwarfs. Gore was educated privately, then in engineering at Trinity College Dublin. After 11 years in India he retired, and lived with his father at Ballisodare, Co. Sligo, until 1894, then to Dublin for the rest of his life. he never married, and devoted himself to astronomy.
In the Punjab, Gore began observing in 1872 or 1873, and used a 3″ Browning refractor and a 3.9″ Wray refractor on a Clarkson mount. He was a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society, an active member of the Liverpool A.S., of 1881, and was elected FRAS in 1878. Gore was also very interested in the structure of the Milky Way, enjoyed statistical methods, and experimented with star-count methods. His eyesight began to fail in 1900. For a definitive and well illustrated biography, see Jeremy Shears, ‘John Ellard Gore: ‘of immensity and minuteness’, J.Br.Astron.Assoc. 123, 2 (2013), 85-99. Shears ranks Gore alongside Pogson, Knott and Baxendell among contemporary variable star observers. Gore discovered several at a time when few were known, and he was at the cutting edge of binary star science. In 2009 a crater on the Moon was named after him (see ODNB; Fitzgerald 1966).

Wilson, William Edward  (1851-1908) astronomer, was born in Daramona, County Westmeath and was educated at home. At the age of nineteen, he took part in an expedition to Algeria to observe a total eclipse and this inspired a lifelong interest in astronomy.

Wilson - Daramona

Wilson’s Observatory at Daramona House

Wilson carried out three main projects: the first reliable determination of the temperature of he solar photosphere, electrical measurements of the brightness of stars and photography of the sun and other celestial objects. Many of his investigations appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society including an observation of the transit of Venus in 1882 and a photographic search for a planet beyond Neptune in 1901/01. In 1900 he took part of the Royal Irish Academy – Royal Dublin Society joint eclipse expedition to Plasencia in Spain.

Wilson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1896 and he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Trinity College Dublin in 1901 (see ODNB; ‘Obituary Notices : Fellows…’, MNRAS, 69 (1909), 254-5).

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