Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr logo


The history of
Astronomy in
Wales:
Introduction



Published
Summaries
of the Subject



People


Publications:
Books and
Journals



Astronomical
Societies in
Wales



Astronomical
Observatories
in Wales



Universities
in Wales



Historic
Observations



Eclipses in
Wales



Meteorite
Falls in Wales



Names of
astronomical
objects



Odds and
ends



Commentary


Web
Links



  

JOHN    JONES
Y Seryddwr
(1818-1898)

Photo of John Jones

Introduction

John Jones was an amateur astronomer who lived in Bangor in the 19th century. He achieved much noteriety locally and was known simply as John Jones, Y Seryddwr (The Astronomer), or just Y Seryddwr. Jones was almost entirely self-taught. He manufactured his own telescopes, in particular an eight-inch reflector. He attracted wide attention for his success in pursuing scholarship despite the severe obstacles imposed by poverty and minimal formal education.



His early life

John Jones was born at Bryngwyn Bach near Dwyran in Ynys Môn (Anglesey) in 1818. [1,2,3] He received only a small amount of education as a child, attending schools at Dwyran and Brynsiencyn. However, his father died when he was aged about twelve years and he was forced to take up employment as a farm labourer. [1]

Some years later, in addition to his farming work, he used to saddle the horse of a local minister of the church. While the minister was away preaching on Sundays, John Jones would use the opportunity to hide in the preacher's library to read books in the Welsh language. Among the books in the minister's collection was the translation into Welsh by Eleazar Roberts (1825-1912) of The Solar System by the Scottish lawyer Dr. Thomas Dick. This introduced John Jones to astronomy.

Y Dosparth Heulawg The title page of Y Dosparth Heulawg, the translation into Welsh by Eleazar Roberts of Thomas Dick's The Solar System.




Illness forced him to give up manual employment and he moved to Bangor to work counting roof slates in preparation for loading on to ships. He developed wide interests in scholarship, writing poetry in Welsh, his first language, and learnt to read other languages including English, Greek and Hebrew. He lived at 32 Albert Street, Bangor, with his wife, Fanny (c.1824-1906).



Astronomical activities

His greatest interest was in astronomy. He read widely in the subject, both popular texts and more advanced accounts of the subject.

In the early 1860's John Jones set about making a small refracting telescope. Through the help of a ship's captain, he purchased some lenses. These, and a cardboard tube, were used to make a basic non-achromatic refractor. This gave simple views of craters on the Moon and the Galilean moons of Jupiter.

John Jones felt a need for a better telescope. Because his finances did not allow him to buy one, he set about building his own in 1868. He purchased a disc of glass and set about the slow process of grinding the surface to a concave spherical shape, the main stage in producing a mirror for a reflecting telescope. The 8-inch diameter disc was then sent to the noted commercial telescope maker George Calver to produce a parabolic surface, and for coating with a reflecting silver layer. Jones built a tube and altazimuth mount from wood. He gave this eight-inch reflector the name Jumbo. It had a ten-foot long tube and was often used through an open window from an upstairs room. It has been argued that this was the first silver-on-glass reflecting telescope in Wales.



Picture of John Jones, Y Seryddwr, from Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr Left: John Jones with his 8-inch reflecting telescope, Jumbo, which he built himself. The telescope is supported on an altazimuth mount.


Picture of John Jones from the Journal of the Astronomical 
Society of Wales Left: the photograph of John Jones and the 8-inch reflector from the Journal of the Astronomical Society of Wales, vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 34-37 (May 1895).

[The caption stated that the picture was "From a Photo by T. H. Hughes, Llangefni." The picture appears rather dark and indistinct in the Journal.]

John Jones made smaller telescopes, including a 6-inch diameter reflector. He manufactured a spectroscope, producing prisms by grinding pieces of glass that had once been used as skylights in ships.

John Jones observed regularly with his telescopes. However, the extent of his observational work has been little documented. He has become better known for his work in making telescopes.



Plaque in Brynsiencyn The plaque erected by the Ynys Môn County Council on a community centre in Brynsiencyn to commemorate John Jones.

[The picture was kindly provided by John Rowlands.]



References

Some of the reference materials can be found on a companion page.
[1.]   S. Smiles, Men of Invention and Industry, J. Murray, London, 1882, pp. 362-369.
[2.]   G. P. Jenkins, Journal of the Astronomical Society of Wales, 1, 34-37, 1895.
[3.]   G. P. Jenkins, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 5, 59, 1911. Later reprinted as a pamphlet, A Plea for the Reflecting Telescope.
[4.]   Rev. J. S. Evans, Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr, publ. William Lewis, Cardiff, 1923, pp. 272-274.
[5.]   Inscription on John Jones's gravestone, Glanadda Cemetery, Bangor.



Further reading

A number of people have written biographical articles about John Jones, Y Seryddwr, clearly interested in his determination to pursue study despite adversity. Transcripts of some of these articles can be found on a companion page which provides reference materials. These articles include:
  • Rev. J. S. Evans, Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr, publ. William Lewis, Cardiff, 1923, pp. 272-274 (Reproduced here.)
  • G. P. Jenkins, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 5, 59, 1911. Later reprinted as a pamphlet, A Plea for the Reflecting Telescope. (Reproduced here.)
  • G. P. Jenkins, Journal of the Astronomical Society of Wales, 1, 34-37, 1895 (Reproduced here.)
  • A. B. P. Mee, Young Wales, Vol. IV, No. 48, pp. 272-274, 1898 (Reproduced here.)
  • S. Smiles, Men of Invention and Industry, J. Murray, London, 1882, pp. 362-369. (Reproduced here.)
  • R. M. Williams, Enwogion Môn 1850-1912, 1913, North Wales Chronicle Co. Ltd., Bangor, 1913 (Reproduced here.)
  • Rev. R. Hughes, Enwogion Môn, E. W. Evans, Swyddfa'r Goleuad, Dolgellau, 1913, pp. 83-84 (Reproduced here.)
  • D. Thomas, in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography Down to 1940, eds. Sir J. E. Lloyd, R. T. Jenkins, Sir W. Ll. Davies & M. B. Davies, Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, London, 1959, pp. 481-482.
  • J. Rowlands, Astronomy Now, vol. 17, no. 8, pp. 76-77, August 2003. John Rowlands wrote an article about John Jones in the popular magazine Astronomy Now in August 2003.
Silas Evans also quotes an article by Arthur Mee in The Nationalist (but no date is given). Other articles are referred to in the above publications (e.g. Y Traethodydd, 1898; Y Genhinen (Gwyl Ddewi), 1901, pp. 42-46).



Acknowledgements

Bryn Jones wishes to thank John Rowlands and Rhys Morris for helpful discussions. John Rowlands has kindly given permission to use photographs on this page.




   
This page was created and is maintained by Bryn Jones.   E-mail: bryn.jones.email@gmail.com .
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 27th August, 2008.
URL of this page: http://www.jonesbryn.plus.com/wastronhist/people/jjones/p_jjones.html .
This page replaced in August 2008 the old page http://brynjones.members.beeb.net/wastronhist/p_jjones.html .   An archived copy of the old page is available here.