Posts Tagged ‘Astronomer Royal’


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 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 having taken Holy Orders established a school in Soho, London. Charles found his ‘heavenly passion’ astronomy. After he graduated Charles staying on for a time to assist John with the teaching of mathematics.

In 1760 Charles applied successfully for the position of Assistant Astronomer at Greenwich Observatory. He served three (3) Astronomer Royals in that capacity.

James Bradley first of these men had, in 1742, succeeded Edmond Halley of comet fame who held the post of Astronomer Royal for twenty-two (22) years from 1720-1742.

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 – 2017 – 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 the sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ – an accurate marine chronometer – many a sea-farer would not have met a watery end. Bradley’s tenure lasted twenty (20) years he died in 1762.



Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

‘But by reason of the motion of the Ship, the Variation of Heat and Cold, Wet and Dry, and the Difference of Gravity in different Latitudes, such a watch hath not yet been made”. And not likely to be, either, he implied’.  Isaac Newton cited, Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

‘Not likely’ – not so – as early as 1736, on a timed voyage, England to Lisbon aboard HMS Centurian, H-1 a marine clock had shown itself a reliable time-keeper.

‘He [Harrison] succeeded, against all odds, in using the fourth – temporal – dimension to link points on the three-dimensional globe’. Sobel ibid.

Accurate time-keeping was essential to the calculation of longitude that gave a ship’s precise position at sea when beyond sight of land.

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

Harrison was the carpenter from Yorkshire whose invention, the sea-going watch, solved the problem of longitude.