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Reflections on the Astronomy of GlasgowA story of some 500 years$
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David Clarke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748678891

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678891.001.0001

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A Professor of Eloquence

A Professor of Eloquence

Chapter:
(p.144) Chapter 6 A Professor of Eloquence
Source:
Reflections on the Astronomy of Glasgow
Author(s):

David Clarke

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678891.003.0006

This chapter covers the life of John Pringle Nichol who, as the 5th Regius Professor of Astronomy (1836 to 1859), influenced extra-mural interest in the subject to a passion that the local citizens funded a substantial observatory on Horselethill, beyond the precincts of the city. A few years after the build (1841), it was saved from financial collapse by the University. Part of the difficulties had arisen through Nichol's extravagance in purchasing unnecessarily expensive equipment including an Ertel transit telescope from Germany - gold instead of silver. Horselethill Observatory was kept in operation for 100 years. Nichol was a prolific writer and populariser of Astronomy; his books Contemplations on the Solar System and Views of the Architecture of the Heavens, the latter expanding on the Nebular Hypothesis, and one describing the discovery of Neptune, received international acclaim; his writings had influence on other giants in the literary arena beyond science including George Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe and Thomas de Quincey. A remarkable read is his Memorials From Ben Rhydding which includes a description of his opium addiction and of its cure. Both he and his son are immortalised in the magnificent memorial stained glass window of the University's Bute Hall.

Keywords:   John Pringle Nichol, Nebular Hypothesis, Horselethill Observatory, Ertel transit telescope, Discovery of Neptune, Contemplations on the Solar System, Views of the Architecture of the Heavens, Opium addiction, Memorial stained glass window of the Bute Hall

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