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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



  

PUBLISHED SUMMARIES
OF THE
HISTORY OF
ASTRONOMY IN WALES



Introduction

The number of general accounts of the history of astronomy in Wales and associated with the country are very limited: indeed this lack is the reason that this website was created. However, a few general summaries of the subject have been produced, but some of these are obscure. A few of these accounts for which copyright has expired are reproduced here.



Published summaries

The best starting point for any study of the subject is the chapter Seryddiaeth yng Nghymru [Astronomy in Wales] of the Welsh language book Seryddiaeth a Seryddwr by Rev. Silas Evans, published by William Lewis Ltd., Cardiff, in 1923. This chapter summarises the subject in 52 pages, placing emphasis on the people associated with astronomy and Wales, from the 16th century to the early 20th century. Copies of Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr can be found in some public and university libraries, and if you are really lucky, in second-hand bookhops.

The following resources from Seryddiaeth a Seryddwr are available on this website:



An Account of a 1909 Lecture by Arthur Mee

An article summarising a lecture by Arthur Mee called Some Welsh Astronomers appeared in the Cambrian Natural Observer (a journal published by the Astronomical Society of Wales), vol. 11, no. 2, pages 63-66, in June 1909.



Some Welsh Astronomers

Welshmen know far too little about their men of science. The Welsh biographical dictionaries are made up principally of divines, whilst eminent men in other departments are either inadequately treated or omitted altogether. Mr. Arthur Mee therefore did good service in calling attention of the Cardiff Cymmrodorion Society to what Welshmen have done in one department of science alone, and we hope the matter will be followed up. Alderman Robert Hughes (ex-Lord Mayor of Cardiff), having introduced the lecturer.

Mr. Mee said that the interest of Welshmen in astronomy was now known to go back to a very early period. It was being clearly shown by the researches of Sir Norman Lockyer and the Rev. John Griffiths that Stonehenge and the other ancient British monuments had a distinct astronomical bearing, and in this respect bore a close resemblance to the Egyptian temples, though on a less elaborate scale. The British stone-circles were allotted to a period from 1400 to 2200 B.C. Sir Norman believed that the Gorsedd was at least 40 centuries old. Coming to more recent times, the most remarkable man of the 16th century was Robert Recorde, a native of Tenby. Recorde who was a lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge, is noteworthy as the first in these islands to embrace the Copernican theory of the solar system, which fact alone testified to the advanced and comprehensive character of his mind. He was an accomplished mathematician, astronomer, geographer, doctor, theologian and poet. He was the first writer in English on arithmetic and geometry, the first writer in English on astronomy, the first to introduce algebra into England. At the beginning of the seventeenth century (1608) the telescope was invented in Holland, and two years later it had found its way into Wales, where - at Treventy in Carmarthenshire - Sir William Lower and John Protheroe, friends of the celebrated Harriot, made observations that were contemporary with those of Galileo. The eighteenth century produced several Welsh astronomers and mathematicians, including Joseph Harris (brother of the celebrated Howell Harris) and David Rittenhouse, the American philosopher, who was of Welsh extraction. Towards the close of the century Nathaniel Piggott and his son were making astronomical observations at Frampton House, near Llantwit Major, some of which were published by the Royal Society. The close of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century there were several astronomers in humble life in the Merthyr district, like William Norbury and Rhys Howell, of Vaenor; these are dealt with in the writings of Merthyr's historian, Mr. Chas. Wilkins. At the same time Cardiff had a meteorologist in the person of Colonel Capper, who had published some of his observations. A former vicar of Cardiff was the Rev. John Webb, father of T. W. Webb, the author of that delightful book, "Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes." Oddly enough, Admiral Smyth, author of "The Celestial Cycle," and to whom "Celestial Objects" was dedicated (grandfather of the hero of Mafeking), was resident at Cardiff about the same time, being Lord Bute's scientific adviser in connection with the making of the first Bute Dock. The Rev. T. W. Webb, who was for some years rector of Hardwick, near Hay (and whose notice Mr. Mee wrote for the "Dictionary of National Biography") was buried at the Church of Mitcheltroy, near Monmouth. It was not without interest to remember that when the British Association last met at Cardiff its president was Sir Wm. Huggins, one of the greatest of English astronomers; and that the highest mountain in the world was named after a Brecon man, the great military engineer, Sir George Everest. Speaking on books about science in the vernacular, the lecturer said how delighted he was when Mr. Ifano Jones (Cardiff's Welsh librarian) showed him a translation of the famous "Lunar Hoax," published at Llanrwst in 1837. The first to publish an astronomical treatise in Welsh was Eleazar Roberts, and though that was sixty years ago, it was delightful to think the veteran was still alive and vigorous. It was the reading of this treatise that helped to make an astronomer of old John Jones, the Bangor working man, of whom Mr. Mee gave an interesting account. John Jones was a remarkable man, and with early advantages would have shone as a star of the first magnitude in the firmament of learning. The services to science of the house of Dillwyn-Llewelyn were referred to, and the lecturer passed on to consider the Welsh associations of Greenwich Observatory and of the Royal Astronomical Society. A former leading assistant at Greenwich, "Arfonwyson" (died 1840), was a Welshman, so was Mr. Thomas Lewis, to-day's England's greatest authority on double stars, and Mr. Edward Roberts, late chief assistant of the "Nautical Almanac." An account of the Astronomical Society of Wales followed, and brief references to the late Mr. Carslake Thompson, the late Mr. A. A. Williams, the late Mr. Wm. Scott, Archdeacon Bruce, Rev. W. E. Winks, Messrs. T. E. Heath, Albert Taylor, C. T. Whitmell, Norman Lattey, Parry Jenkins, Ernest Madge, Miss Hagerty, and other workers. Special mention was made of working men astronomers like Thos. Harris, of Llanelly, and T. K. Jenkins, of Blaina. The lecture closed with a brief account of the late Dr. Isaac Roberts and his grand work as a pioneer in celestial photography. - On the motion of Dr. Pritchard, a hearty vote of thanks was accorded. Numerous lantern slides illustrated the lecture. - "Glam. Times."

[Note that it is now known that the translation by Eleazar Roberts of Thomas Dick's The Solar System was not the first treatise in Welsh about astronomy. The claim of the ancient origins of the Gorsedd is now known to be untrue.]



Other Published Summaries

An eight-page chapter about the history of astronomy in Wales appeared in the book Gwyddonwyr o Gymry [Welsh Scientists] by O. E. Roberts, published by the University of Wales Press in 1956. This discussed the lives of Sir William Lower (1569/1570-1615), John Prydderch (c.1582-c.1624), Robert Recorde (c.1510-1558), Joseph Harris (1704-1764), Lewis Evans (1755-1827), Thomas Jones (1775-1852), Edward Mills (1802-1865), John William Thomas (Arfonwyson, 1805-1840), Isaac Roberts (1829-1904), Thomas Lewis (1856-1927) and David S. Evans (1916-2004).

Short but authoritative biographies of individual people can be obtained in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography, which can be found in many public libraries in Wales. On online version is available as Welsh Biography Online at the National Library of Wales. Longer articles, but only for a few people can be found in the Dictionary of National Biography and its modern replacement, the Oxford Dictionary of National 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/publsummaries.html .
This page replaced in August 2008 the old page http://brynjones.members.beeb.net/wastronhist/publsummaries.html .   An archived copy of the old page is available here.