The history of
of the Subject
Falls in Wales
|An illustration from Robert Roberts's Daearyddiaeth explaining the causes of solar and lunar eclipses. The Moon at position L causes a solar eclipse, while at position Ll it experiences a lunar eclipse.||An illustration from Roberts's Daearyddiaeth showing the orbits of planets and a comet about the Sun. Published in 1816 before the discovery of Neptune and Pluto, the drawing shows the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. The planets are shown with their satellites alongside.|
Another book by Roberts, Seryddiaeth neu lyfr gwybodaeth yn dangos rheoliad y planedau ar bersonau dynion ("Astronomy or a book of knowledge showing the rule of the planets on human beings"), was in reality a treatise on astrology and the occult aimed at a popular market. It contained no science and contrasts very strongly with the scientific principles described in Daearyddiaeth. Curiously, the same term "seryddiaeth" (astronomy) was used (correctly) to mean astronomical science in Daearyddiaeth and (incorrectly) for the mysticism of the astrological treatise. An inspection of the two books shows, however, that Roberts fully understood the difference between the two subjects. [12,54]
John William Thomas (1805-1840) of the Royal Observatory Greenwich, who was perhaps better known by his nom-de-plume Arfonwyson, wrote one of the first dedicated astronomical publications in the Welsh language, as opposed to publications on broader themes that included astronomical sections. His Darlith ar Seryddiaeth ("Lecture on Astronomy") was based on a lecture given to the Cymrodorion Society in London and was published as a pamphlet by H. Humphreys in Caernarfon. It dealt mainly with the Solar System and positional astronomy. The text was written in 1835: the booklet looked forward to the annular solar eclipse of 15th May, 1836. However, the booklet was not dated and the author is described as "y Diweddar Hyglod J. W. Thomas (Arfonwyson)" ("the late famous J. W. Thomas (Arfonwyson)"), indicating that it was not published until after Arfonwyson's death in 1840. [13,14,15]
The prominent English amateur astronomer Admiral William Henry Smyth (1788-1865) worked on preparing his renowned book A Cycle Of Celestial Objects while living in Cardiff. Smyth moved to Cardiff in 1839 to supervise the building of new docks by the Marquis of Bute for exporting coal. It was in Cardiff that Admiral Smyth prepared the observations that he had made at his former observatory in Bedford, England, for publication. The observations of 850 objects were published in 1844 as A Cycle Of Celestial Objects, but became more widely known as the Bedford Catalogue. Further biographical details about Smyth are given on the website of SEDS (Students for the Development of Space) and in the Royal Astronomical Society's 1866 obituary at the NASA ADS Service. [16,17]
Edward Mills (1802-1865) of Llanidloes published a book, Y Darluniadur Anianyddol ("The Illustrated Book of Natural Science"), in 1850 about astronomy, geography and geology. Mills had developed a reputation as a popular lecturer on astronomy and is reputed to have toured Wales with a large mechanical orrery of his own construction. The book was illustrated by wood engravings he made himself. Example illustrations from the book are presented on the web pages of the Powys Digital History Project. 
The middle and later part of the nineteenth century witnessed the translation of some English-language books into Welsh. A translation of the infamous Moon Hoax was published around 1837 as a 16-page pamphlet. The hoax concerned a sensational, and entirely fictitious, claim that the eminent astronomer Sir John Herschel had observed living creatures walking on the lunar surface through his 20-foot focal length telescope from South Africa. The story was invented by a news reporter R. A. Locke and appeared in the New York Sun newspaper in a series of articles in August 1835. The Welsh translation, entitled Hanes y Lleuad, yn gosod allan y Rhyfeddodau a Ddarganfyddwyd gan Syr John Herschel trwy Gynnorthwy Gwydr-ddrych ("The Story of the Moon, presenting the Oddities Discovered by Sir John Herschel with the Assistance of a Telescope"), was published in Llanrwst by John Jones. [UWB,UWC,19]
A translation by Griffith Parry (1827-1901), Pregethau Seryddol: neu, gyfres o bregethau ar grefydd ddatguddiedig yn ei chysylltiad a seryddiaeth ddiweddar, of the book A Series of Discourses on the Christian Revelation Viewed in Connection with the Modern Astronomy by Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was published in Caernarfon by H. Humphreys in 1846. The book discussed the implications of contemporary astronomical discoveries for Christian religious beliefs. A second edition was published by Hughes and Sons, Wrexham, around 1871. [UWB,UWC]
Eleazar Roberts (1825-1912), originally of Pwllheli and later of Merseyside, translated the popular English-language book The Solar System by the Scottish preacher and writer Dr. Thomas Dick (1774-1857). The Welsh language version, Y Dosparth Heulawg, was published in two parts by the Religious Tract Society in London around 1850. The book discussed the Sun, each planet, the Moon and asteroids in detail. An appendix provided a glossary of astronomical terms, which is in itself of interest for providing the Welsh equivalents adopted by Eleazar Roberts for the original English terms in Dr. Dick's book. [20,21,22]
Thomas Gee, the famous printer, publisher, author and political activist, published a translation of the astronomical volume of Jeremiah Joyce's (1763-1816) Scientific Dialogues, under the title Elfenau Seryddiaeth (Principles of Astronomy) in Denbigh in 1851. The Scientific Dialogues formed a six-volume introduction to science for children. [UWB,UWC]
John Jones (c.1823-1900) was born in Rhesycae, Flintshire, and after a military career, is reputed to have worked on compiling almanacs for nautical use. He wrote articles on astronomical and mathematical subjects. He subsequently retired to Ysceifiog, Flintshire. [23,24]
Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), the famous naturalist and co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the theory of evolution, was born and spent his early childhood in Usk. While his association with Wales is not particularly strong (he spent much of his career in England and travelling the world), he did live in Neath for two short periods in the 1840s. His contribution to astronomy was to write about the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe, particularly Mars. He used solid scientific principles to argue against the claims of many scientists of his day that Mars harboured various advanced life forms. 
Isaac Roberts (1829-1904), a pioneer of long-exposure astronomical photography and who was born near Denbigh, published two volumes of his photographs while he was living at Crowborough in Sussex in southern England. The first volume of A Selection of Photographs of Stars, Star-clusters and Nebulae appeared in 1893. The second volume was published in 1899 (a scanned copy is available at the Internet Archive). Further details are given in the web page devoted to Isaac Roberts. [29,30,50]
Arthur Mee (1860-1926) published a number of books and pamphlets on astronomy. He wrote a short popular book Observational Astronomy which was first published in 1893, with a second edition in 1897. A booklet for children Observation Without Instruments: Hints for Young Watchers of the Heavens appeared in 1901. A pamphlet describing the Cardiff City Telescope appeared in 1906. A booklet The Story of the Telescope (1909) gave a history of the telescope, including the results of Mee's own research into the first telescopic observations. (A scanned copy of The Story of the Telescope is available .) Further details are given in the web page devoted to Arthur Mee. [25,26,27,28]
Prof. George Hartley Bryan, F.R.S. (1864-1928), who was professor of mathematics at the University College of North Wales, Bangor, between 1896 and 1926, was a coauthor of the book Elementary Mathematical Astronomy with Examples and Examination Papers. The book was originally written by C. W. C. Barlow and George Bryan in 1892 when Bryan was a Fellow at a Cambridge college, before arriving in Bangor. It became a useful textbook for university-level study. The book was republished in several revised editions through to the 1950's (including, at times, with Andrew Crommelin and Harold Spencer Jones as coauthors after Bryan's death). A scan of the second edition is available at the Internet Archive. [31,32,33]
Thomas Edward Heath (1849-1918) of Cardiff, and later of Tenby, wrote some popular books, including Our Stellar Universe: A Road-book to the Stars and Our Stellar Universe: Stereoscopic Star Charts and Spectroscopic Key Maps (both were published by King, Sell, & Odling Ltd., London, around 1905). [USNO,34]
Arthur Philip Norton (1876-1955), author of the famous Norton's Star Atlas, was born in Coldstream Terrace in Cardiff. He spent only his first months in Cardiff and spent most of his life in different locations in England. [35,36]
Caradoc Mills (1883-1950) produced the popular book Y Bydoedd Uwchben: Llawlyfr ar Seryddiaeth ("The Heavens Above: A Handbook on Astronomy"), published in Bangor in 1914. Mills was born in Llanrwst and was educated at the University College of North Wales in Bangor. The book provided a popular overview of astronomy. 
Prof. Gwilym Owen (1880-1940) of the University College of Wales Aberystwyth wrote some popular books in Welsh about the physical sciences. He was the professor of physics at Aberystwyth between 1919 and 1937. His books included Athroniaeth Pethau Cyffredin (1907); Cwrr y Llen: Ysgrifau Gwyddonol (1914); Rhyfeddodau'r Cread (1933); and Mawr a Bach, sef Sêr ac Electronau (1936). He sometimes gave an emphasis to astronomy in these works, particularly in Rhyfeddodau'r Cread and Mawr a Bach. [38,39,40,41,42]
Rev. (later Canon) J. Silas Evans (1864-1953),
wrote the classic popular account of astronomy in Welsh called
Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr, published in 1923.
He also produced an English-language popular book on
astronomy called Marvels of the Sky
(publ. A. H. Stockwell, London, 1931, 97 pages) and a
compilation of 'astronomical sermons' called Ad Astra
(publ. A. H. Stockwell, London, 1931, 80 pages).
Because of the importance of Silas Evans as a Welsh astronomical author and Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr, including its significance in the study of the history of astronomy in Wales, the following web pages are available:
Hugh Percy Wilkins (1896-1960) was born in Carmarthen and lived most of his early life in Llanelli. He developed a strong interest in amateur observational astronomy. He later worked as a mechanical engineer and civil servant in England, while achieving prominence as an observer of the Moon. He wrote several books, most famously The Moon which appeared in several editions in the 1950s and 1960s (including with Patrick Moore as a coauthor). It contained Wilkins's celebrated 300-inch diameter map of the near side of the Moon, which perhaps represented the culmination of centuries of lunar observation from the Earth. It was only superceeded by imaging from spacecraft in lunar orbit over the following two decades. H. P. Wilkins also published popular books on astronomy, including: Making and Using a Telescope (written jointly with Patrick Moore); Mysteries of Space and Time; Clouds, Rings, and Crocodiles: by Space-ship Round the Planets; Guide to the Heavens; Instructions to Young Astronomers; The True Book About the Moon; and The True Book About the Stars. [BL]
Barbara Middlehurst (1915-1995) was born in Penarth near Cardiff, where she spent her childhood. After university and working for a time as a school teacher, she became an astronomer in St. Andrews. She moved to the United States where she continued her research, in particular in planetary science. She acted as an editor of some astronomical review volumes and as the astronomy editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. [BL,47]
Kenneth Glyn Jones (1915-1995) was an amateur astronomer and deep sky observer who was born in New Tredegar in the Rhymney Valley. He published several works on amateur observations of deep-sky objects. Messier's Nebulae and Star Clusters first appeared in 1968 with a later reprint. He edited several Webb Society observers' handbooks. [48,BL]
The oldest scientific manuscript in the collection of the National Library of Wales is a mediaeval treatise on astronomy in Latin. It is in two main sections, copied from classical sources, the first probably copied around the year 1000, the second around the year 1150, both probably having been written in France. The first section is lavishly illustrated and shows many drawings of the 48 classical constellations shown with east and west reversed (as they would appear on a celestial globe). The manuscript was bought by the Library from the collection of Plas Power, Denbighshire. It has been digitally imaged and the entire document is available for detailed study over the web among the documents on the The Digital Mirror at the website of the National Library of Wales.
The Astronomical Society of Wales produced an annular Amateur Observer's Almanac, at some times as an edition of the Journal, at some other times as a separate publication.
For further details of the Society, see the web page devoted to the first Astronomical Society of Wales. The page includes example pictures from the Journal.
After the demise of the Astronomical Society of Wales, Arthur Mee attempted to continue writing regular notes on astronomical topics by contributing a astronomical column to the local newspaper Barry Dock News. These notes were reprinted by Mee as Welsh Astronomical and Nature Notes in 1914 and 1915. [BL]
An older tradition of the nineteenth century was the production of popular almanacs listing some everyday events such as the dates of local fairs and markets, but also including astronomical information such as the rising and setting times of the Sun, the phases of the Moon, times of high and low tide at various locations along the coast of Wales, and solar and lunar eclipses.  Most famous perhaps was the Almanac Caergybi, initiated by John Robert Lewis (1731-1806) and continued by his son by Robert Roberts (1777-1836) of Holyhead, which appeared under a wide variety of titles, many of them variants on the word Cyfaill ("Friend"). [UWC,LlGC,12,50,51,57,58]
This page was created and is maintained by Bryn Jones. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
WWW home page: http://www.jonesbryn.plus.com/ .
This page was first created in January 2000 (at a different address).
It was last modified on 5th January, 2009.
URL of this page: http://www.jonesbryn.plus.com/wastronhist/booksjournals.html .
This page replaced in August 2008 the old page http://brynjones.members.beeb.net/wastronhist/booksjournals.html . An archived copy of the old page is available here.