BRIEF LIVES AND TIm ES: 1 28 020 0 Y – E 20 A20 RS BR OFI T EH F L E R IVA ES S Founders of the RAS: Stephen Groombridge tephen Groom- Mike Edmunds bridge was one of examines the life of Smany of the RAS the businessman founders who financed their astronomical stud- and astronomer, ies by business careers. in his Brief Lives, Starting out as an celebrating the apprentice in Smithe fi ld founders and in London, he rose to become an “eminent history of the RAS. wholesale linen draper” and then a “West India merchant”. It is dif- c fi ult to establish the exact nature of the latter business, but he was suc- 1 Stephen Groombridge and his transit circle made by Troughton. (Transit circle: RAS/SPL) cessful enough to be able to retire around the end of 1815, between the British 2018 59 1.13) recalled seeing him for the last time: abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and the abolition Groombridge was confined to his bedroom but of slavery itself in 1833. Long before his retirement labouring at the necessary correctional computa- he was active with his own observatories. The Scots tions and “knowing that he had but a short time to Magazine for 1807 carried a report of his observations live, he was still anxious [for publication]”. of the asteroid Vesta, within three months of its dis- The work had been set up in print by 1832, the covery by the Bremen astronomer Heinrich Olbers. year Groombridge died. It was realized, however, He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1812. that major errors had been made in the reductions – not by Groombridge, but by one of the Admiralty Transit circle appointees. On the advice of the Council of the RAS, AUTHOR Groombridge was born in Goudhurst in Kent in the publication was stopped. George Biddell Airy Michael Edmunds, School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardi U ff niversity, UK. 1755, moving in 1802 to Blackheath, about a mile – who seems to have thoroughly respected Groom- from the Greenwich Observatory. The work for bridge’s abilities – took over the work and the cata- THE RAS BICENTENARY which he is best known started in 1806 logue was published in 1839, by which In 2020, the RAS celebrates 200 years since its founding as “the Astronomical as a result of acquiring a transit circle ‘‘He happily deserted his time Airy was Astronomer Royal. It Society of London”. It began at a meet- from the notable instrument-maker dinner table and guests was of lasting value. Dyson and Thack- ing on 20 January 1820, with 14 men Edward Troughton, which survives when an observation eray re-observed the stars at the end of aged 24 to 65. Who were they? What in the Science Museum’s collections. was needed’’ the century, and the original catalogue was their astronomical world like? Why start a society then? This series of short The instrument was excellent and was re-reduced and re-published in articles running up to 2020 aims to in Groombridge’s skilled and assiduous hands it 1905. One of the entries (star Groombridge 1830) was sketch both the men and their times. was as good as or better than anything else in the noted in the year 1842 as having a very high proper world. It has been estimated that during 1806–17, for motion, which remains the third highest known. FURTHER READING Airy G B (ed.) 1838 A Catalogue of nearly all of which time he was still engaged in busi- It is a much-studied galactic halo star and is now Circumpolar Stars, Deduced from the ness, he made some 50 000 observations. He would probably the main source of astronomers’ familiarity Observations of Stephen Groombridge, happily desert his dinner table and guests when a with the Groombridge name. Esq. (John Murray, London). The preface and introduction by Airy contain much particular observation was needed. His aim was to Apart from astronomy, music was his passion. An interesting material on Groombridge make a detailed positional survey of some 4200 stars auction a few months after his death advertised “a and the transit circle. brighter than a magnitude of about 8.5 and within very valuable Assemblege of music, including the Dreyer J L E & Turner H H 1923 History 50° of the north celestial pole. But the reduction of the Library of the late Stephen Groombridge Esq., F.R.S., of the Royal Astronomical Society 1820–1920 (RAS, reprinted by Blackwell observations to positions was far from easy. F.A.S., many years President of the Glee Club”. These Scientic 1 fi 987). Page 65 has a concise By the time of the foundation of the RAS in 1820, clubs were groups of (predominantly amateur) sing- account of the machinations over the Groombridge was 65. He made progress with his ers particularly devoted to the singing of short songs, publication of the Catalogue. survey reductions, and gained some computational or “glees”. His club was at the Crown and Anchor Hutchins R 2004 Groombridge, Stephen (1755–1832) Oxford Dictionary assistance from the Board of Longitude, but he had Tavern in the Strand, to which he donated a prize for of National Biography (Oxford still not completed the work when his health began the encouragement of “English composition”. In St University Press) to fail with a stroke and partial paralysis in 1827. Mary’s Church, Goudhurst, there is a memorial to Obituary 1833 Monthly Notices of the Astronomical Society of London 2 145 Captain Thomas Colby (another RAS founder, A&G him and his wife Lavinia. ● A&G • April 2018 • Vol. 59 • aandg.org 2.15 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/astrogeo/article-abstract/59/2/2.15/4935774 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018
Astronomy & Geophysics – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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