John Flamsteed (August 19, 1646 - December 31, 1719)

John Flamsteed was the son of a prosperous merchant in Denby near Derby, Derbyshire, England. He studied astronomy between 1662 and 1669 on his own and opposed by his father. He was employed by King Charles II. as Britain's first Royal Astronomer on March 4, 1675, on the recommendation of Jonas Moore. The Royal Observatory at Greenwich was built for him and he began observing in 1676, but he had to fund and bring his own instruments. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1677, where he was a Member of council from 1681-4 and 1698- 1700. In 1684, he was granted living in Burstow in Surrey by Lord North.

His main work was collecting improved observations and position measurements for stars, which finally led to the compilation of a large catalog, Historia Coelestis Britannica (Flamsteed1725), and an atlas of stars, Atlas Coelestis (Flamsteed1729). Included in his careful observations were some interesting discoveries and unrercognized pre-discovery observations:

While urged by Edmond Halley, Flamsteed refused to publish his observations for a long time, pointig out that as he had to fund his instruments, they were his property. Halley obtained the cost for publication from Prince George of Denmark in 1704, and despite the prince's death in 1708 and Flamsteed's objections, finally published the Historia Coelestis Britannica in 1712 on his own in 400 copies. With the help of Lord Chamberlain, Flamsteed got arranged to be handed over the remaining about 300 copies in 1715, and burned them. It is this unauthorized publication where the famous so-called Flamsteed Numbers were assigned to the brighter stars of each constellation.

Flamsteed's authorized publication occurred only posthumously in 1725, under the title Stellarum Inerrantium Catalogus Britannicus, with the numbers removed.

Other notable work of Flamsteed included Lunar theory, optics of telescopes, and meteorological observations with barometers and thermometers, as well as longitude determination.

Flamsteed died on December 31, 1719 in Greenwich. His greatest enemy, Halley, was to succeed him as the second Astronomer Royal.

A Moon Crater has been named after Flamsteed (4.5S, 44.3W, 20 km diameter, in 1935). Asteroid (4987) Flamsteed was discovered by Bickley, Pearth Observatory, on March 20, 1980 - provisional designation 1980 FH12; other independent findings were designated 1983 BV and 1990 DT.



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