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John Couch Adams (1819–1892) by Sir Hubert von Herkomer, 1888 Pembroke College, Cambridge

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Adams, John Couch (1819–1892), astronomer, was born on 5 June 1819 at Lidcot, a farm near Launceston, Cornwall, the eldest of the seven children of Thomas Adams (1788–1859), a poor tenant farmer, and his wife, Tabitha Knill Grylls (1796–1866), a farmer's daughter who had received some education from her uncle ...

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Airy, Sir George Biddell (1801–1892), astronomer, was born at Alnwick, Northumberland, on 27 July 1801, the eldest of the four children of William Airy (1749–1827), of Luddington in Lincolnshire. His mother, Ann Biddell (d. 1841), a woman of strong character and natural abilities, was the daughter of a well-to-do farmer from near ...

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Sir George Biddell Airy (1801–1892) by Maull & Polyblank, c. 1864 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Alcock, George Eric Deacon (1912–2000), astronomer, was born on 28 August 1912 at 59 London Road, Fletton, Peterborough, the eldest of the four sons of George William Alcock (1880/81–1958), railwayman, and his wife, Jane (Jennie) Deacon (1875/6–1943), dressmaker. He was educated in Peterborough...

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Andrews, Henry (1744–1820), astronomer and astrologer, was born on 4 February 1744 in Frieston, Lincolnshire. His background was humble, and he received little or no formal education. A passion for astronomy was evident from a very early age, and by the time he was ten he had acquired a telescope, which he used to set on a table on ...

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Askham [Ascham], Anthony (c. 1517–1559), writer on astronomy and almanac maker, was born at Kirby Wiske, near Northallerton, Yorkshire, the third son of John Ascham (d. 1544) of Kirby Wiske, who was a yeoman farmer and steward to Lord Scrope of Bolton...

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Atkinson, Henry (1781–1829), mathematician and astronomer, was born on 28 June 1781 at West Harle, Northumberland, the son of Cuthbert Atkinson, a schoolmaster, and his wife, Elizabeth. He was educated by his father, who ran a number of schools in small towns in ...

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A. M. Clerke

revised by Anita McConnell

Aubert, Alexander (bap. 1730, d. 1805), merchant and astronomer, was born at Austin Friars, London, and baptized on 11 May 1730 at St Peter-le-Poer, Old Broad Street, London, the second of seven children and eldest of the four sons of Claude Aubert (1692–1774)...

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See Backhouse family

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Bacon, John Mackenzie (1846–1904), astronomer and aviator, born at Lambourn Woodlands, Berkshire, on 19 June 1846, was the fourth son of John Bacon (1809–1871), vicar of Lambourn Woodlands, a friend and neighbour of Charles Kingsley and Tom Hughes, and his wife, Mary Lousada...

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Bagwell, William (b. c. 1593, d. in or after 1664), merchant and writer on astronomy, was, according to his own account, 'bred a merchant in good quality, skilfully furnished with knowledge in all things necessary, and having seen the world abroad' (Bagwell...

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Baily, Francis (1774–1844), stockbroker and astronomer, was born at Newbury, Berkshire, on 28 April 1774, the third son of Richard Baily (1744–1814), a banker, and his wife, Sarah Head (1745–1823). At the age of fourteen, following his education at the old grammar school in ...

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Francis Baily (1774–1844) by Thomas Goff Lupton (after Thomas Phillips, 1837) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Bainbridge, John (1582–1643), astronomer and physician, was born in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, the son of Robert Bainbridge and his wife, Anne, daughter of Richard Everard. He was educated first at the grammar school there, and then at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was admitted as a pensioner in the Lent term, 1600. His tutor is said to have been a distant relative, ...

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Ball, Sir Robert Stawell (1840–1913), astronomer, was born on 1 July 1840 at 3 Granby Row, Dublin, the second of the seven children of Robert Ball (1802–1857), a civil servant who was honorary secretary of the Dublin Royal Zoological Society, and his wife, ...

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Ball, William (c. 1631–1690), astronomer, was the son of Sir Peter Ball (bap. 1598, d. 1680), a barrister of the Middle Temple, and his wife, Ann, daughter of Sir William Cooke of Highnam, Gloucestershire. He was the eldest of seventeen children in a legal and mercantile family of minor ...

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Banneker, Benjamin (1731–1806), astronomer and farmer in America, was born on 9 November 1731 in Baltimore county, Maryland, in what later became the community of Oella, the first of four children of Robert (d. 1759), a former slave from Guinea who had been given his freedom, and his mixed-race wife, ...

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Bassantin [Bassendyne], James (d. 1568), astronomer and astrologer, was the son of the laird of Bassendean in the Merse, Berwickshire, and was born in the reign of James IV (r. 1488–1513). He entered the University of Glasgow at an early age, and, after finishing his studies in the humanities, devoted himself to mathematics and its related sciences, in which he acquired remarkable proficiency. To improve further in these subjects he travelled in the ...

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Batecombe [Batecumbe], William (fl. 1348), astronomer, was probably connected with one of the villages named Batcombe in Dorset and Somerset. Nothing is known of his personal circumstances beyond his association with the University of Oxford, and the fact that he is described as magister. Most of his extensive writings on astronomy are lost, but an influential collection of astronomical (Alfonsine) tables dated 1348, for which he seems to have been responsible, is still extant....