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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Flamsteed, John"

Flamsteed, John [Astro*Index]

(1646-1719) English astronomer. Born at Denby, Derbyshire; died at Greenwich (near London).

With the expansion of England's merchant fleet, the determination of longitude at sea became of critical importance to the government. Realizing that no method would prove satisfactory, until a star map was created which exceeded the accuracy of any then available, he, therefore, appealed to King Charles II to establish a national observatory to undertake the effort. Charles II agreed, and appointed Flamsteed the first Astronomer Royal, in charge of the observatory. Although funds for the building were supplied, Flamsteed was given only a small salary, no assistants, and no instruments. He, therefore, had to build his own instruments, and perform his own calculations. Newton regarded Flamsteed's position as that of general "hired hand," demanding that he turn over his observations for processing by his superiors. Flamsteed rebelled. But, Halley, Newton's friend, secured some of Flamsteed's observations and published them, with the Prince Consort, George of Denmark, bearing the cost of printing. Flamsteed acquired and burned at least 300 copies of the work, but the incident left an open wound between the three men. Nevertheless, Flamsteed completed his star catalogue, which was three times the size of Tycho Brahe's effort, and gave the position of the stars to a precision six times greater. Two centuries later, the nations of the world agreed to use the meridian of the old observatory at Greenwich as the Prime Meridian, from which Longitudes (on the Earth) are measured.

See also:
♦ Newton, Sir Isaac ♦ Halley, Edmund


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine