Basil Brown; a scholar of both Earth & Sky – Astronotes

By Matthew McMahon, Observatory Museum Assistant

“Historical past is crucial to science as roots to a tree. Trendy Astronomy could also be likened to a terrific metropolis constructed on foundations courting again as far as to nearly as outdated because the race.” 

Basil J. W. Brown

The research of astronomy has by no means been restricted to the skilled sphere, for so long as we’ve been craning our necks to check out the celebs, we’ve been learning them. Basil J. W. Brown was born in England in 1888 to a farming household. He started an in astronomy by learning his grandfather’s outdated books when he was 5. Although he left faculty at twelve, he was a lifelong learner, who was hardly ever not on the roll of some night class, or distance studying . By nineteen he had been awarded diplomas in Astronomy and different sciences via a correspondence school. 

Basil Brown – Credit score WikiCommons

            Right this moment he’s finest remembered for his work as an archeologist, and his defining work because the discoverer and excavator on the Sutton Hoo ship have lately been made into a movie by Netflix; The Dig (2021). His different ardour nevertheless was astronomy, and in 1918 he joined the British Astronomical Affiliation, although his membership would later lapse due to monetary pressure. He owned a two-inch aperture and made a slew of observations all through the 1920’s and past. His first printed work appeared in The English Mechanic and would later publish his first articles within the British Astronomical Associations journal.

Basil Brown (entrance) excavating the seventh century burial ship at Sutton Hoo in 1939 – Credit score WikiCommons

            It was within the mixture of those twin loves of historical past and astronomy that led Basil Brown to publish his e book ‘Astronomical Atlases, Maps and Charts’ in 1932. He had been engaged on the e book for 4 years when he printed it and it will obtain a second publishing within the 1960’s. Basil’s e book was a continuation of his analysis into historic astronomy. He paid explicit consideration to different beginner astronomers all through historical past, equivalent to James Ferguson, born in Scotland in 1710. Ferguson was the son of a laborer and very like Basil, developed a love of astronomy early on in life. 

Credit score – Armagh Observatory

            His e book additionally references a number of different works held by Armagh Observatory, such because the catalogues of observations made John Pond at Greenwich Observatory. And naturally, he refences the New Normal Catalogue compiled by the fourth director of the Observatory John Louis Emil Dreyer, a list nonetheless in use by astronomers immediately. Right here at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium we maintain two copies of the primary version, one given as present to our seventh Director Dr. Lindsey in 1958 which is held in our library for reference by our college students. The opposite was a part of the non-public library of Mervyn Ellison, son of the sixth Director, Reverend William F. A. Ellison, and is now held within the Ellison historic assortment.             

Basil Brown was a eager beginner astronomer who mixed his ardour for historical past with an appreciation for the evening sky and a dedication to his work. He would go on to be higher remembered for his work as an archeologist, however his work on the historical past of astronomy was no much less necessary to its area. 

Translation of latin within the internal plate
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his palms. 
Psalm 19.1  – Armagh Observatory

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