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The history of
Astronomy in

of the Subject


Books and

Societies in

in Wales

in Wales


Eclipses in

Falls in Wales

Names of

Odds and







Many interesting characters have been prominent in Astronomy in Wales. They have included some academics, but also a great many people from a range of professions who have had an enthusiasm for the subject and a desire to contribute to it. Work of international importance was carried out by a few of these figures. However, the emphasis of astronomical work in Wales up to the middle of the 20th century tended to be on amateur study. This was probably because of the absence of university-level scientific research in the country until the later part of the 19th century and the relatively slow growth of astronomy in the University of Wales in the period up to the middle of the 20th century.

Other people who were born in Wales, or lived there for a time, have contributed to astronomy outside the country. We include these in our survey.

Silas Evans presented short biographies of many of these people in his book Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr (published by William Lewis Ltd., Cardiff, in 1923): this is an excellent starting point for information about people in the period leading up to the 1920s. It also presents pictures of some of these characters. Short biographies of individual people can also be found in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography, which can be found in many public libraries in Wales. T. Iorwerth Jones published an account of Welsh scientists in the Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1932-1933 volume, pages 40-232. His article, The Contributions of Welshmen to Science, includes some Welsh astronomers, and gives publications lists. A summary of the people included is available online.

The list of Welsh astronomers given by Silas Evans in the chapter about Astronomy in Wales in Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr is available on these pages.

These pages only cover people who are dead: we have no wish to embarrass the living by assessing their work in public, or to extend beyond the normal limits of historical scholarship. In fact, there are probably more people from Wales active in astronomical research today than at any other period in hisory, working in universities in Wales, across Britain, or across the world. Our survey of the work of their predecessors will allow today's researchers to be put into context and to illustrate the importance of their accomplishments.

Some Welsh astronomers

Some of the most notable astronomers associated with Wales are:

  • Lewis of Caerleon was an astronomer, mathematician, physician and theologian of the second half of the 15th century. Comparatively little is known about his life. His name implies he originated from Caerleon. Lewis is known to have taught at Oxford University. He wrote several books about astronomy, in particular about eclipses.

  • Robert Recorde who was a leading mathematician of the 16th century. He wrote about mathematics, medicine and astronomy, introducing the Copernican model to the British Isles. Recorde's major contribution to today's society was the invention of the equals sign (=): think of him when you next press the = button on your keyboard!

  • Sir William Lower (c.1570-1615) and John Prydderch (c.1582-c.1624) (also known as John Protheroe) who used a telescope for astronomical observations in Carmarthenshire around 1609 and 1610, at the same time as, or slightly earlier than, Galileo was using his telescope in Italy.

  • Joseph Harris (1704-1764) achieved prominence as a specialist in scientific instruments. He was born in Trefecca, Breconshire, spent his childhood and early adult life in Breconshire before moving to London. He wrote about navigation and astronomical instruments.

  • Rev. Lewis Evans (1755-1827), F.R.S., was a mathematician, mathematics master at Woolwich Military Academy in London, and a curate in the Anglican church. Born in Caerleon, he published on several subjects including positional astronomy and solar eclipses.

  • The variable star observers Nathaniel Pigott (1725-1804) and his son Edward Pigott (1753-1825) lived in the Vale of Glamorgan in the 1770's where they did some observing, although much of their astronomical work was carried out at other periods in England and in France.

  • Edward Mills (1802-1865) of Llanidloes developed a reputation as a populariser of astronomy, lecturing on the subject across Wales. He built a large portable orrery. He published a book Y Darluniadur Anianyddol [The Illustrated Book of Natural Science] in 1850 about astronomy, geography and geology.

  • John Dillwyn Llewellyn (1810-1882), F.R.S., owned the Pen-lle'r-gaer estate near Swansea, and served as high sheriff of Glamorgan. His interest in science included photography and astronomy. He built an observatory at Pen-lle'r-gaer.

  • Isaac Roberts (1829-1904), born in Denbighshire, who pioneered long integration imaging in astronomy at the end of the 19th century. He took the most detailed photographs of clusters and nebulae of the time, demonstrating the fundamental importance of photography to astronomical research.

  • Hugh Percy Wilkins (1896-1960), amateur astronomer and specialist in lunar observing. He produced one of the most detailed maps of the near side of the Moon before the start of the space age.

  • Edward Bowen (1911-1991), physicist and science administrator, was born and attended university in Swansea. He moved to the U.S.A., and then Australia where he had a central role in the development of radio astronomy in Australia, being instrumental in the construction of the Parkes radio telescope and the Anglo-Australian Telescope.

  • Barbara Middlehurst (1915-1995), who pursued research firstly in Britain and then the United States, particularly in relation to the Moon, and who is best remembered as an editor of review volumes in a number of diverse research fields.

  • Kenneth Glyn Jones (1915-1995), amateur astronomer and deep sky observer, was born in New Tredegar. He made detailed observations of clusters, nebulae, double stars and galaxies using amateur-sized telescopes. He was the leading figure in the Webb Society.

A few notable astronomers lived in Wales for a short periods, but there is little evidence of astronomical activity when in the country: the distinguished amateur Admiral W. H. Smyth (1788-1865) lived for a time in Cardiff. Arthur Norton (1876-1955), who produced the world-famous Norton's Star Atlas, was born in Cardiff and spent his first few months in Wales.

Biographical information available here

Pages are available here about the following people:

Some membership lists of the Astronomical Society of Wales are available. These give the names of some amateur astronomers from the period 1894-1910.

This page was created and is maintained by Bryn Jones.   E-mail: .
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