Posts Tagged ‘almanac’

THE THIRD MAN – CHARLES GREEN

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

‘The grim roll-call broke his [Cook’s) heart…the death of the astronomer Charles Green marked a wave of those who ‘departed this life’….By the end of January [1771] they had barely enough men to man the ship [HMS Endeavour]’. Vanesssa Collingridge, Captain Cook, The Life, Death and Legacy of History’s Greatest Explorer, Ebury Press, 2002

Charles Green son of ‘a prosperous’ free-hold Yorkshire farmer was born in Swinton towards the end of 1734. He received a broad education with a strong emphasis on science.

John his elder brother took Holy Orders and established a school in Soho, London where Charles found his ‘heavenly passion’ astronomy. After graduating he stayed on for a time teaching mathematics. He went on to serve as Chief Assistant to three (3) Astronomer Royals, James Bradley, Nathenial Bliss and briefly Nevil Maskelyne.

In 1675 King Charles II engaged Sir Christopher Wren to design an Observatory. Wren chose the ruins of Greenwich Castle. Although many of its buildings had been destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundhead Model Army during The Protectorate Interregnum its foundation were intact.

A year later, in 1676, Rev. John Flamsteed, England’s inaugural Astronomer Royal, took up residence in the newly minted Observatory and remained in the role until his death in 1720.

Edmond Halley of comet fame succeeded Flamsteed and held the post for twenty-two (22) years until his own death in 1742.

Rev. James Bradley followed and his tenure too was lengthy 1742-1762. Bradley is celebrated principally for his work on the speed of light. In 1728 he estimated light moved at the speed of 295,000 km (183,000 miles) per second.

Three (3) centuries later Bradley’s calculations were amended to 299,790 km (186,290 miles) per second. If only Bradley had stuck to light and left time and longitude to Mr. John Harrison inventor of an accurate marine chronometer – a sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ – many a sea-farer would not have met a watery end.

‘John Harrison, the man who solved the problem of longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Revolution, Macmillan, London, 2016

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