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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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The Wilsons

The Wilsons

(p.77) Chapter 4 The Wilsons
Reflections on the Astronomy of Glasgow

David Clarke

Edinburgh University Press

The story of Alexander Wilson's genius commences with his kite experiments to fly thermometers expertly made by himself, to measure the temperature of the atmosphere. This was done in collaboration with a Glasgow student, Thomas Melvill, who later proposed that light contained monochromatic elements. Wilson's thermometers were loaned to Sir William Herschel for experiments which discovered infra-red radiation. Wilson made his fortune as a type founder; he underpinned the success of the Foulis Press, producers of Homer's works set in ‘Glasgow’ Greek font. Appointed (1760) as first Regius Professor of Astronomy, his observations of sunspots revealed solar surface ‘depressions’, now known as the Wilson Effect. He also wrote a tract on how stellar motions are affected by universal gravity. Using his own manufactured thermometers, he investigated snow temperatures at different depths and of the forming of mists. Similar studies were taken up by his son, Patrick, on succeeding to the Chair; he is cited as the first person to investigate the notion of ‘dew-point’. Patrick Wilson is best known in respect of stellar aberration studies and his observational proposal involving water-filled telescopes. The chapter concludes with descriptions of local meteor events and of the Possil Meteorite fall of 1804.

Keywords:   Thomas Melvill, Monochromatic elements within light, Foulis Press, Glasgow Greek font, Sir William Herschel, Wilson Effect, Dew-point, Possil Meteorite, Stellar Aberration, Water-filled telescopes

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