10:40AM, Thursday 17 May 2018
The grave of one of the 19th century’s most prominent astronomers has been tidied up thanks to the work of members of Maidenhead Astronomical Society (MAS).
Hidden beneath the undergrowth at St Luke’s Church, in Norfolk Road, is the tombstone of William Lassell (1799-1880).
Lassell began his early life as a brewer, where he established a family wine merchants in Liverpool and used his wealth to build three major astronomical instruments.
He went on to become a fellow and later president of the Royal Astronomical Society.
His discoveries included Triton, Neptune’s largest satellite, and Hyperion, a moon of Saturn which was discovered in partnership with William Cranch Bond in the 1840s.
He also discovered Ariel and Umbriel, two of the moons of Uranus, in 1851.
In 1855, he built a 48-inch telescope, which he installed in Malta because observing conditions were better than in often-overcast England.
On his return to the UK after several years in Malta he moved to Maidenhead, where he settled in Ray Lodge, near the river, and operated his 24-inch telescope in an observatory there.
MAS member Steve Buniak said that members had been happy to carry out the work for someone with such an ‘amazing’ contribution to the field.
“It was just because he is an historic astronomer,” he said.
“There aren’t that many moons to be discovered so to discover three is a big deal.”
“The 48-inch telescope he built was the biggest in the world at the time.
“He’s quite an inspiration really.
“To do what he did while his main job was a brewer is quite amazing.”
W The society welcomes new members and the next meeting is on Friday, June 1.
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