The history of
of the Subject
Falls in Wales
IntroductionJohn 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 lifeJohn 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. 
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.
Astronomical activitiesHis 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.
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.
ReferencesSome of the reference materials can be found on a companion page.
Further readingA 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:
AcknowledgementsBryn 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: 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 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.