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The history of
Astronomy in
Wales:
Introduction



Published
Summaries
of the Subject



People


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Wales



Astronomical
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Names of
astronomical
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ends



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JOHN    PRYDDERCH
(JOHN    PROTHEROE)
(c.1582-c.1624) 


Introduction

The introduction of the telescope to astronomy at the start of the 17th century revolutionised people's understanding of the Universe. The immediate discoveries supported the Copernican model, which put the Sun at the centre of the planetary system rather than the Earth. Among the pioneers of the telescope in astronomy were Galileo Galilei, Thomas Harriot, Simon Marius, and in Carmarthenshire, Sir William Lower and John Prydderch (or Protheroe).

John Prydderch (also called John Protheroe, John Pretherch and John Rytherch) was born in about 1582 in Carmarthenshire, son of the very wealthy landowner James Rytherch. He was probably educated at Jesus College, Oxford, and attended Lincoln's Inn, London. He inherited the estate of Nant-yr-hebog (occasionally referred to by its direct English translation, Hawksbrook).

Prydderch became friendly with Sir William Lower of Trefenty, only a few miles from Natyrhebog. The two men discussed scientific issues, including astronomy. Through Lower, Prydderch was introduced to the distinguished English scientist Thomas Harriot. When Harriot sent a telescope to Lower, very shortly after the invention of the instrument, Prydderch assisted Lower in making some of the very first telescopic astronomical observations.

More information is given on the page about Sir William Lower.

[References: Thomas Harriot: A Biography by John W. Shirley (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1983); The History of the Telescope by Henry C. King (Charles Griffin and Co. Ltd., London, 1955).]



Account in Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr

Silas Evans provided a short biography in Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr, pages 276-279, with two photographs.

It reads as follows (with a translation into English to follow):

Trown o Sir Benfro i Sir Gaerfyrrddin. Yn fuan ar ol darganfyddiad egwyddor y telescôp cawn fod THOMAS HARRIOT, y dyn mwyaf blaenllaw mewn gwyddoniaeth yn y wlad hon y pryd hwnnw, wedi danfon am rai o'r gwydrau. Cyfeillion mawr i Harriot oedd SYR WILLIAM LOWER, o Treventy, yn agos i Lacharn, a JOHN PRYDDERCH, o Nantyrhebog, Sarnau, yn yr un ardal. Anfonodd Harriot un o'r gwydrau i Lower a Prydderch, ac â hwn buont yn "arsyllu" yn Treventy yr un adeg oeddd Galaileo yn arsyllu yn yr Eidal, sef yn 1609. Ceir hanes o hyn gan Mr. Mee yn Knowledge a'r Nationalist. Un o Gernyw oedd Syr William Lower, ond ymbriododd â merch i Syr Thomas Perot, a daeth i fyw i Treventy. Yr oedd tad Prydderch yn Uchel-Sirydd Sir Gaerfyrddin yn 1599, a'i fam yn ferch i Robert Byrt, Maer Caerfyrddin yn 1593. Ymbriododd Prydderch ag un o'r Vaughans, Gelli Aur, ac yr oedd yn un o gyndadau y Stepneys, Hamlyn Williams, a theuluoedd ereill. Nis gallwn nag edmygu y ddau seryddwr clodwiw hyn, a charwn ategu awgrym Mr. Mee, mai gweddus fyddai gosod i fyny gofeb yn Treventy i atgoffa'r ffaith mai yno y buwyd yn "arsyllu" yr wybren serennog gyntaf erioed yn y wlad hon, a hynny yn y flwyddyn gyntaf y daeth y telesgô i fodolaeth.


This is Rhys Morris's translation of Silas Evans's account:

We turn from Pembrokeshire to Carmarthenshire. Shortly after the discovery of the principle of the telescope we hear that THOMAS HARRIOT, the foremost authority on science in this country at that time, had sent for some of the lenses. A close friend of Harriot was SIR WILLIAM LOWER of Trefenty, near Laugharne, and JOHN PRYDDERCH [or John Protheroe] from Nantyrhebog, Sarnau, in the same area. Harriot sent one of the glasses to Lower and Prydderch and with this they were observing in Trefenty at the same time Galileo was in Italy. The history of this by Mr Mee can be found in Knowledge and The Nationalist. Sir William Lower was from Cornwall, but he married the daughter of Sir Thomas Perrot, and came to live in Trefenty. Prydderch's father was high sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1599, and his mother was daughter of Robert Byrt, Mayor of Carmarthen in 1593. Prydderch married one of the Vaughans of Gelli Aur and was one of the forefathers of the Stepneys, Hamlyn Williams and other families. We can but admire these two praiseworthy astronomers, and I would agree with Mr. Mee's suggestion that a monument should be constructed in Trefenty to commemorate the fact that this was where the sky was observed for the first time in this country and this in the first year of the telescope's existence.



Left: the cartoon of Lower and Prydderch on page 265 of Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr. Lower looks through a telescope while Prydderch holds a cross-staff. The cartoon had been used earlier by Arthur Mee in his book The Story of the Telescope in 1909.





Further reading

More information is given on the page about Sir William Lower.

Useful biographical information about Prydderch (and especially Lower) can be found in the book Thomas Harriot: A Biography by John W. Shirley, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1983.

Shirley refers to a brief account of Protheroe by Arthur Mee in his article Carmarthenshire and Early Telescopes in the transactions of the Carmarthenshirs Antiquarian Society, IV, 43-44 (1908-1909). Mee quoted articles by himself about Lower and Prydderch in the magazines Knowledge in December 1908, and The Nationalist in October 1908. Shirley also refers to articles The Squires of Hawksbrook and The Vaughans of Golden Grove by Major Francis Jones, former County Archivist of Carmarthenshire and a descendant of of one of the daughters of John Prydderch, in the Transactions of the Honorable Society of Cymmrodorion.

No entry about John Prydderch appears in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography.




   
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/jprydderch/p_jprydderch.html .
This page replaced in August 2008 the old page http://brynjones.members.beeb.net/wastronhist/p_jprydderch.html .   An archived copy of the old page is available here.