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Monday, 31 October 2016

31‭ ‬October‭ ‬1867:‭ ‬The death occurred of the‭ ‬3rd Earl of Rosse at Monkstown,‭ ‬Co Dublin on this day.‭ ‬He was the most prominent astronomer of his time and built the world’s largest and most powerful telescope of the age on his estates at Birr Castle,‭ ‬County Offaly.‭ ‬After studying at Trinity College he later gained a First in Mathematics from Magdalen College,‭ ‬Oxford.‭ ‬He first represented‭  ‬the Kings County at Westminister as Lord Oxmanstown but was indifferent to deep political considerations.‭ ‬In politics he was a moderate conservative but of an independent mind on some leading questions.

After retiring from the world of politics he applied himself to the pursuit of astronomical science.‭ ‬Starting almost from scratch he assembled a series of large telescopes that he perfected through trial and error till eventually he produced his magnificent‭ ‬72‭ ‬inch optical reflector‭ – ‬the‭ ‘‬Leviathan of Parsonstown‭’‬.‭ ‬With this he discovered or developed‭  ‬many unknown or little understood heavenly objects including the remains of the burnt out star Supernova SN‭ ‬1054.‭ ‬He observed that nebula at Birr Castle in the‭ ‬1840s,‭ ‬and referred to the object as the‭ ‘‬Crab Nebula‭’ ‬because a drawing he made of it that looked like a crab,‭ ‬which is still the name it is most commonly known as to this day.‭

One of Rosse's telescope admirers was Thomas Langlois Lefroy,‭ ‬a fellow Irish MP,‭ ‬who said:‭

The planet Jupiter,‭ ‬which through an ordinary glass is no larger than a good star,‭ ‬is seen twice as large as the moon appears to the naked eye/.../But the genius displayed in all the contrivances for wielding this mighty monster even surpasses the design and execution of it.‭ ‬The telescope weighs sixteen tons,‭ ‬and yet Lord Rosse raised it single-handed off its resting place,‭ ‬and two men with ease raised it to any height.

In‭ ‬1849‭ ‬he was elected President of the Royal Society.‭ ‬He was elected a member of the Imperial Acadamy at St Petersburg,‭ ‬and created a knight of the Legion of Honour by Napoleon III.‭ ‬He also received the Knighthood of St Patrick from Queen Victoria.‭ ‬Though born in England to an Anglo-Irish family he was strongly attached to this country by the ties of family,‭ ‬property and sympathy.‭