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Institute of Astronomy


John Couch Adams (1819-1892) predicted existence of planet Neptune independently of Le Verrier. Director of the Cambridge Observatory (1861-1892). Married Elizabeth 'Eliza' Bruce (1827-1919) in 1863.  Obits. MNRAS Vol. 53, p.184 (1893).  The Observatory Vol. 15, p. 173-189 (1892) ODNB

Sir George Biddell Airy  (1801-1892) Plumian Professor 1828-1836, Director of the Cambridge Observatory 1828-1835.  Married Richarda Smith (1804-1875) in 1830.  Astronomer Royal 1835-1881. See: A. Chapman JHA 29 (1988) 121. Obituaries: The Observatory, Vol. 15, p. 74-94 (1892)MNRAS Vol. 52, p.212 (1892).    Astronomical Journal, vol. 11, iss. 252, p. 96-96 (1892).  ODNB 

Gunter H. Archenhold  (1904-1999) German refugee astronomer held a special position in the SPO from August 1939 to May 1940, later worked as a school teacher with continued interest in solar observing.  See Obit. JBAA (1999) vol.109, no.4, p.226

Arnold Noel Argue (1922-2001) Junior Assistant Observer at Cambridge Observatory 1953-59, Senior Assistant Observer, 1959-90  (born 13 December 1922, died 9 Feb 2001 aged 78, Obit. C.U.R. 28 Feb 2001) A&G 42(2)(2001)38

T. Arthur (?-?)  Assistant in SPO in workshop & photographic work 1931-46, retired due to ill-health from the Combined Observatories in 1948

Gertrude Bacon  (19 April 1874 - 22 December 1949) aviation pioneer/writer with scientific interests, including astronomy, born in Cambridge.  She was a member of the BAA and took part in three eclipse expedition, she also attempted to study meteors from above the clouds in a balloon.  She holds a number of aviation 'firsts' for women.  WIKIPEDIA 

Lt. Andrew Doughty Baldrey (1785-1843) naval officer, first Senior Assistant at the Cambridge Observatory from 1829, died at the Observatory 1st October 1843.  See Notes & Queries 169 (1935) 376

Sir Robert Stawell Ball (1840-1913) author of popular books on astronomy, Director of the Cambridge Observatory 1892-1913.  Married Frances Elizabeth Steele (1842-1919) in 1868.  See: A. Chapman JAHH 10 (2007) 198.  Obituaries: MNRAS  Vol. 74, p.268 (1914).  The Observatory, Vol. 37, p. 35-41 (1914) Popular Astronomy, vol. 22, pp.28-30 (1914).  ODNB 

John Thomas Barber  (1825-1897) as an undergraduate at Trinity College he published observations of the aurora as seen from Cambridge with J.H. Morgan.  Obit. MNRAS 58 (1898) 131

Frank E. Baxandall (1868-1929) worked with Norman Lockyer on stellar spectra, moved to Cambridge with the Solar Physics Observatory where he was Senior Assistant Observer from 1913-1929.  Obit. The Observatory, Vol. 53, p. 23-24 (1930) 

Mrs Beech (nee Anna Nellie Scott) (after 2nd marriage: Anna N. Griffith) (10 July 1889 - 1 October 1974) Educated at Newnham College 1908-11, M.A. (1924).  Mentioned in SPO annual reports 1920-1927 as assisting H.F. Newall on historical studies of sunspots, they published a paper together, MNRAS 84(1924)528  She was an original member of the Alpine Garden Society and the author of several books on alpine plants. Her book "Collins guide to Alpines" with photographs by Valerie Finnis: London, Collins (1964) had at least three editions.  Fellow of the Linnean Society (1956).  Obituary: Newnham College Roll Letter p.44-45 (1975).  See also Newnham College Register 1908: p.209. The Story of Mrs Beech

Arthur Beer  (1900-1980) researcher at the Solar Physics Observatory, Cambridge 1934-37 and later Senior Assistant Observer at the Cambridge Observatories 1947-1967.  Editor-in-Chief of "Vistas in Astronomy".  VA 24 (1980)i-ii. 

Miss Julia Bell (1879-1979) Of Girton College, Computer at the Cambridge Observatory 1902-7, published work on parallax in MNRAS.  Later became prominent in field of genetics. ONDB See also Journal of Medical Biography 4 (1996) 8-13.

H. J. Bellamy (??) Assistant to Mr Newall 1902-5, left to work at the Royal Naval College, Osborne

Arthur George Berry (1823-1877)  Son of the Revd. Butler Berry, vicar of Thriplow and Foxton. Educated at Jesus College, Cambridge.  Junior Assistant at the Cambridge Observatory 1843-1846, later career in Church of England and as a naval chaplain 1855-64.  Married Mary Blythe Simpson in 1863 (The Times October 3rd 1863).  See ACADdatabase.

Arthur Berry O.B.E. (1862-1929) Vice-Provost of King's College, Cambridge, FRAS and author of 'A Short History of Astronomy' (1898). Obituary MNRAS 90 (1930) p. 358

Donald E. Blackwell  (1921-2010)  Graduate of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.  Assistant Director of the Solar Physics Observatory, Cambridge 1949-60.  Savilian Professor, Oxford 1960-1988.  Obituary A&G 52(3) (2011) p.37-38

S.E. Bowd (??) Computer at the Cambridge Observatory 1906-10

Arthur H.L. Bowden (1839-1923) Junior Assistant at Cambridge Observatory 1857-1858, Senior Assistant 1858-1863.  With Challis observed Comet 1861 II (MNRAS22(1862)267).  See The Observatory, Vol. 39, p. 168-173 (1916)

James Breen (1826 July 5 - 1866 August 25) Senior Assistant Observer at the Cambridge Observatory 1846-1858. Over the period 1855-59 he was a keen observer of comets and asteroids using the Northumberland Refractor.  He was also the author of a popular-level book "The Planetary Worlds" (1854)  See, Astronomy Now Vol. 15 No. 8 (August 2001) p. 74. and Astronomy Now Vol. 36 No. 8 (August 2022) p.23  ODNB

Hermann Alexander Bruck (1905-2000) John Couch Adams Astronomer 1943-1946.  Obit. A&G 41(6) p.35 (2000)

Sir David Brunt  (1886-1965) distinguished meteorologist, worked at the Cambridge Observatory as an Honorary Staff Member whilst holding the Isaac Newton Studentship 1911-13.  See Obit.  QJRAS 6 (1965) 379 

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943-) discovered first Pulsar (1967)

Charles Pritchard Butler (1871-1952) Career in Solar Physics Observatory as Senior Assistant Observer 1889-1937, also a Director of BAA Solar Section. Obit. MNRAS Vol. 113, p.294 (1953)

Hugh Ernest Butler (1916-1978) Emmanuel College, Senior Assistant Solar Physics Observatory/Combined Observatories 1946-8, main career at Edinburgh.  Obit. QJRAS Vol. 20, p. 221 - 222 (1979)

A.D. Campbell (??) Computer at the Cambridge Observatory 1905-11

Sir John Anthony Carroll K.B.E. (1899-1974) Assistant Director of the Solar Physics Observatory 1925-1930, later career as an Admiralty scientist, Gresham Professor of Astronomy (1964). Obit. QJRAS Vol. 16, p. 100 - 103 (1975)  The Observatory, Vol. 94, p. 148-148 (1974)

Thomas Catton (bapt. 1758 died 1838) Operated an observatory at St. Johns College (1791-1832) see ODNB entry

Rev. James Challis (1803-1882) responsible for the British hunt for Neptune, Plumian Professor: 1836-1882 and Cambridge Observatory Director 1836-1861. Married Sarah Copsey, nee Chandler (1789?-1870) in 1831. Obit. MNRAS Vol. 43, p.160 (1883).   ODNB 

Rev. James Law Challis  (1833-1919) son of James Challis, assisted at Cambridge Observatory 1856-7, later Rector of Stone, Buckinghamshire 1879-1916 and FRAS. Obit. MNRAS 80 345 (1920)

Wyvill James Christy (12 June 1835 -1892) Appointed Junior Assistant at the Cambridge Observatory 4 May 1859, resigned due to ill-health 8 February 1860, previously a computer at Greenwich 1858-59.  Later worked as an architect and author of several books.

Henry Wilberforce Clarke  (1840-1905) army officer, author, and translator of Persian, assisted with a meteor watch at the Cambridge Observatory 1866 November 13-14, see MNRAS 27 (1867) 75

Bryan Cookson (1874-1909) grandson of R.S. Newall, Assistant in Astrophysics at the Cambridge Observatory 1906-9. Obits. MNRAS 70 (1910) 297   Observatory 32 (1909) 386 [IoA Library photograph PE/46/D.2.11 may possibly be of him].

Roger Cotes (1682-1716) elected as the first Plumian Professor on 16 October 1707 and serving until his early death in 1716, he had helped Newton with the second edition of the Principia. See ODNB 

Edwin Turner Cottingham  (1869-1940) clockmaker and 'Honorary keeper of the clocks' at the Cambridge Observatory for many years, went on the 1919 eclipse expedition with Eddington. Obit. MNRAS 101 (1941) 131  There is a full biography on the Ringstead People website

Heather Anita Couper CBE (2 June 1949 - 19 February 2020)  Assistant Technical Officer, Combined Observatories 1969.  Presenter and author, popularizer of astronomy.  Obituary The Guardian

George Stickland Criswick (1836-1916) most of career at Greenwich, but was Junior Assistant at the Cambridge Observatory 1854-55. See The Observatory Vol. 39, p. 168-173 (1916)

Sir George Howard Darwin (1845-1912) Plumian Professor: 1883-1912, author on the tides.  Obits. MNRAS Vol. 73, p.204 (1913)  The Observatory, Vol. 36, p. 55-59 (1913)  Popular Astronomy, vol. 21, pp.125-129 (1913)ODNB

Philip Ivor Dee  (1904-1983) Graduate of Sidney Sussex College, then Stokes Student at Pembroke (1930-33) pioneer with C.T.R. Wilson of the cloud chamber, honorary member of S.P.O. staff (1928?-33?).  Wartime work on radar. Professor of Natural Philosophy at Glasgow from 1943. FRS (1941) CBE (1946) Hughes Medal (1952) ODNB

Terence James Deeming  (1937-1992)  Junior Assistant Observer 1961-2 at the Cambridge Observatories, then to University of Texas.  Obituary BAAS Vol. 24 (1992) 1322

Mrs Barbara Dewberry (?-10 June 1968)  Secretary at the Cambridge Observatories 1954-1968.  There is a bench commemorating her in the observatory garden. DSpace

David William Dewhirst (1926-2012)  Cambridge M.A. (from Certificate 27 January 1951), Cambridge Ph.D. (from Certificate 24 June 1953). Junior Assistant Observer at Cambridge University Observatories 1950-55, Senior Assistant Observer and Librarian 1955-93, Gresham Professor of Astronomy 1976-79.  Obituaries in The Observatory 133 (2013) p.54 and A&G 54 (2013) p.1.36. ODNB

James Chilton Dobbie (1902-?) B.A. Trinity College (1924) M.A. (1928). First Junior Observer (1930) then Senior Assistant Observer at the Solar Physics Observatory 1937-45, but from 1940 away on war related work, resigned 1945 (information from SPO annual reports and email from Trinity College 11/4/13).

Richard Dunthorne (1711-1775) established observatory at St. Johns College in 1765, expert on Moon motions.  A servant of Roger Long, Master of Pembroke College, he helped Long build the great celestial sphere.  He also was employed as a surveyor on drainage schemes for rivers in Cambridgeshire and surrounding counties.  ODNB