Wednesday, February 12, 2014

British Astronomers

I had cause to Google "British Astronomers" yesterday, and was so horrified by the result I felt I needed to post it. Actually once I think about it it's not a surprise at all, but the raw numbers still shocked me.

The top line is a list (with images) of the results "most mentioned on the web". I did a screen shot of that below.

It's William Herschel, Patrick Moore, Isaac Newton, Edmond Halley, John Flamsteed, Caroline Herschel, George Airy, John Herschel, James Bradley (?), Arthur Stanley Eddington, Jeremiah Horrocks, Nevil Maskelyne, John Adams (?), Fred Hoyle, Richard van der Riet Woolley (?), Frank Watson Dyson (?), William Parsons, Martin Rees, Harold Spencer Jones (?) and Jocelyn Bell.

Only two out of the 20 (10%) are alive, only two (10%) are women.

I put question marks above on names which were not immediately recognisable to me (this I take as my failing not Google's, but I was curious why they're there). It turns out that most of them are former Astronomer Royals whose wikipedia article begins "XX is an English Astronomer who was Astronomer Royal from XX-XX". John Adams I should have known - he's the person who (a the same time as but independently of Le Verrier) predicted the existence of Neptune from deviations in Uranus's orbit.

Is it time to add some more recent British astronomers to the list? Perhaps some more women (where is Cecilia Payne-Gaposhkin in this?). It seems we can help to do this by editing Wikipedia which is a good thing to do anyway.

Curiously Googling either "English Astronomers" or "American Astronomers" does not return the series of images ("Italian Astronomers" does - but missing Galileo!).


  1. You mean John Bevis ( - also someone I'm not particularly aware of if I'm honest…