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Graham, Andrew (1815–1908), astronomer, was born on 8 April 1815 in co. Fermanagh, Ireland. He was trained by T. R. Robinson at Armagh observatory, and on 1 March 1842 became assistant to Edward Joshua Cooper (1798–1863) at the latter's lavishly equipped Markree observatory. His annual stipend of £100 with free accommodation remained unchanged for eighteen years. In 1847 Graham devised an improvement to the bar micrometer and the following year he discovered a ninth asteroid, Metis; he was said to be the only astronomer of his day also to compute the orbit and analyse the irregularities himself. Between 1848 and 1856 he and an assistant made meridian observations of 60,066 stars along the ecliptic (the sun's apparent annual path across the sky), of which only 8965 were previously determined. Their catalogue, published in four volumes, met a real need, providing reference stars for planets, new minor planets, and comets. Graham was considered an extraordinary observer, and also computed the orbits of 198 comets for a book published by Cooper in 1852.

John Couch Adams (1819–1892) had assumed direction of the Cambridge University observatory in September 1861. When he met Graham in December 1862, Cooper was aged sixty-four and ailing, and Graham's situation looked precarious. Adams offered £150 with £10 increments every three years (to £230 by 1903), and free accommodation, coal, and light at the observatory (latterly worth £70 per year); Graham would have a powerful new 8 inch transit circle, a better climate, more assistance, and better prospects. Graham accepted, completed his work for Cooper in June 1863, and moved to Cambridge. From April 1864 Adams delegated all the routine work to Graham: he laboured for thirty-nine years, taking a vacation only on urgent family business. A staunch Wesleyan Methodist, his recreation was chapel meetings and events. In 1871 he declined to assist a visit from Le Verrier and William Lassell because he had a chapel commitment. Graham and his wife Mary (c.1813–1883) had two sons and two daughters, Emma and Harriott, who became engaged while visiting Ireland; after her marriage Harriott emigrated to Queensland, and died there in 1876. Mary Graham died at the observatory on 20 August 1883.

In 1882 Anne Walker (b. c.1864), a computer and effectively Graham's second assistant, was allocated a vacant room at the observatory. The transit circle required two observers. From 1872 Graham worked with his assistant Henry Todd, until Todd's health necessitated that Walker regularly substitute for him; in 1892–3 only Graham and Walker observed, and from 1894 to 1896 ‘Miss Walker alone observed’ (Eddington, Astronomical Observations, vi). The Cambridge zone of 14,464 stars for the international Astronomische Gesellschaft (AG) scheme was published in 1897. On Graham's retirement in 1903, after more than sixty years' work in astronomy, Adams's successor R. S. Ball petitioned senate: ‘No one without his spirit and dignity would have done such work … at so low a stipend for all those years’ (Ball, 829–30). He was voted a £200 pension and moved to Maid's Causeway, off the Newmarket Road, where he died on 5 November 1908.

Anne Walker was born at Wickham, Suffolk. At the age of fifteen, in 1879, she joined the Cambridge observatory as a part-time computer. From 1882, having distinguished herself in the local senior exams, she was employed full-time (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a six-day week) at £10 per quarter, with a month off at Christmas. From the beginning she did some observing, but was chiefly engaged on reduction of the zone observations. When Todd moved out, Walker obtained the perquisite worth £30 yearly of moving into the observatory. In 1884 her salary was £60, with free accommodation. She was more than ‘a good observer and an expert calculator’ (observatory report, 26 May 1885, 1): with her energy, zeal, and skill, she was invaluable among the ageing staff. In her free afternoon time she helped Adams collate Newton's mathematical papers. It was too cold to work in the calculating room in the winter of 1889; a gas stove was not installed until 1891, when gas lighting replaced paraffin lamps. With Todd unable to observe at night, Walker helped Graham complete the AG zone in 1896. In 1899 hers were the first, and until April 1903 the only, observations for the new Catalogue of Zodiacal Stars (1928).

Ball became director of the observatory in 1892, and he retired Todd that June. Walker's position was anomalous. Officially only a computer, she actually did all the work of a third assistant; this had been tacitly recognized by Adams, who had raised her salary by £10 every three years since 1884. When Ball advertised for a new assistant she wrote for clarification, adding: ‘I am very desirous to contribute astronomical work’ (Walker to Ball, 21 March 1885, letter-book, 89). This suggests that Ball had not spoken to her about it, although they lived in the same building. But Ball engaged younger men at more money—P. Morris for 1893–6, then A. R. Hinks, a 23-year-old first-rate mathematics graduate of Trinity College, in 1896 at £150. Walker's salary had not risen after 1895; the writing was on the wall. In 1899 she officially became the meteorological observer, worth an additional £3 5s. a quarter. With free accommodation she was on the equivalent of £190 per year, surely the best paid woman astronomer in the country.

Graham retired on 27 April 1903, aged eighty-eight. Hinks was appointed chief assistant, another graduate was appointed second assistant. Walker gave her notice to leave on the same day, after twenty-four years, which suggests her frustration, as well as her loyalty to and affection for Graham. A spinster one year short of her fortieth birthday, she was a late practitioner of the antiquated eye and ear method of observing in an observatory lacking electricity until 1909. Since she did not qualify for a pension, only frugality would have enabled her to save enough to preserve her dignity. As there is no photograph of her among those of the observatory staff, Walker disappeared with even less trace than the meagre formal notes in reports and catalogues that alone mark her quarter century as an observing assistant at a major observatory.

Roger Hutchins

Sources  

[R. S. Ball], ‘Retirement of Mr Graham’, Cambridge University Recorder, 33 (1903), 828–30 · The Observatory, 31 (1908), 467 · ‘Cooper, Edward Joshua’, DNB · St John Cam., John Couch Adams MSS, box 2 · Observatory syndicate annual reports, Cambridge University Observatory · minute books, Cambridge University Observatory · [A. Eddington], introduction, Catalogue of zodiacal stars (1928) · letter-book, 1888–1900, Cambridge University Observatory, 89 · W. Doberck, ‘The Markree observatory [pt 1]’, The Observatory, 7 (1884), 283–8 · A. S. Eddington, Astronomical observations made at the observatory of Cambridge, ed. J. C. Adams, 25 (1919), v–ix · d. cert. [Mary Graham] · census returns, 1891 [Anne Walker]

Archives  

St John Cam., John Couch Adams MSS, letters


Likenesses  

photograph, c.1900, U. Oxf., Astrophysics Library · photograph, Cambridge Observatory Library