Our lecture on Wednesday 21st May was given by Paul Hill, an ex-teacher who has set up a website called Sirius Astronomy, to educate children and adults in astronomy and the world around us. Paul organises star camps in the Brecon Beacons among his many other events.
Paul whetted our appetites by saying that three of the names he mentioned would each have a connection with either murder, leprosy or sewage, and went on to give us a list of well known and unknown characters in history whose ideas and inventions have added to the advancement in astronomy. He also gave reasons for each of them to qualify for the title of the "First British Astronomer". His list included Geoffrey Chaucer, The Venerable Bede, Richard of Wallingford, Bishop Grosseteste the Bishop of Lincoln, Leonard Digges and his son Thomas, Thomas Harriott who in 1609 was the first person to look through a telescope at Zion House, where a plaque was erected in 2009 on the 400th Anniversary of the telescope. Paul talked about the Herschel family of Caroline, William and William's son John.
The first astrogroup was formed in the 17th Century including Jeremiah Horrocks, William Crabtree, William Gascoigne, and Richard Townley. The Royal Astronomical Society was formed in 1820 and members included - Edmund Halley, Robert Hooke, and John Flamsteed the first Astronomer Royal, The Earl of Rosse, and Robert Carrington. Women were not admitted until 1905.
Paul then talked about less well known astronomers in the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries, including John Dreyer, Andrew Ainslee- Common the first British astrophotographer, and well known astronomers including Sir Bernard Lovell, Thomas Eddington, Fred Hoyle, and Jocelyn Bell-Burnell who is a living astronomer, and who gave us a very interesting lecture a few years ago on the first ever pulsars, which she was the first person to discover.
All the people talked about in the lecture made Astronomy what we know today, by their observations and inventions, and added so much to our knowledge of our hobby.
Paul gave us a very in depth talk, and our thanks go to him for making the evening such an interesting and informative history lesson. We hope that he will be able to give us another of his lectures next year.
More about Paul and his website can be found at www.siriusastronomy.co.uk