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Nevil Maskelyne (1732-1811), fifth Astronomer Royal (1765-1811).

Nevil Maskelyne (1732-1811), fifth Astronomer Royal (1765-1811).
Nevil Maskelyne (1732-1811), fifth Astronomer Royal (1765-1811).
© National Maritime Museum, London
Repro ID: BHC2854
Description: A graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, Nevil Maskelyne became assistant to the then Astronomer Royal, Bradley, in 1757. He was ordained in 1755 but never took a post in the Church. In 1761 he was sent by the Royal Society to the island of St Helena to observe the transit of Venus, with the aim of using this information to calculate the distance of the Earth from the Sun. Bad weather prevented any useful observations being made, however, Maskelyne used his journey to develop a method of calculating longitude called the lunar distance method. A vested interest in an astronomical solution to the longitude problem could have been seen as a conflict of interests, but this did not stop the Board of Longitude sending Maskelyne to Barbados in 1763 to test Harrison's No. 4 timekeeper. In 1767 Maskelyne produced the first Nautical Almanac in which he presented results of his studies of the Sun, Moon, the planets and the stars. His time as Astronomer Royal was spent making improvements to existing apparatus and installing new equipment. In 1769 he used this improved apparatus along with his improved method of observation to observe the transit of Venus at Greenwich. He was also involved in 'weighing the Earth'.
Creator: John Downman
Date: 18th century
Credit line: National Maritime Museum, London
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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