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Edmond Halley (1656-1746).

Edmond Halley (1656-1746).
Edmond Halley.
© National Maritime Museum, London
Repro ID: BHC2734
Description: Best known for the comet bearing his name, which returned as he predicted in 1758, Edmond Halley worked on a wide range of scientific problems before becoming Astronomer Royal at the age of 64. Halley began a degree at Queens College Oxford, but he left without graduating having obtained a letter from the King, and financial backing from his father (a wealthy business man) to sail with the East India Company to St Helena. It was on St Helena that he compiled his 341-star catalogue of the southern skies. He also made observations of the transit of Mercury and suggested how these observations might be used with others to calculate the distance of Mercury and the Sun from the Earth. In 1687 Halley persuaded Newton to publish his work, 'Principia'. He was made a captain in the Royal Navy in 1698 and set off in command of the ship 'Paramore' to investigate (unsuccessfully) using the angular difference between true and magnetic North to calculate longitude. He used the 'Paramore' once more in 1701 to perform investigations into tides in the English Channel, before becoming Professor of Geometry at Oxford in 1703. In 1715 Halley produced a pamphlet showing his predictions for the path of the forthcoming eclipse, thus creating public interest in the event. He took over from Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal in 1720 and re-equipped the Observatory with a grant from the Ordinance Survey (Mrs Flamsteed had removed all the equipment and furniture from the Observatory regarding it as her husband's property). Now that there was a good star catalogue, Halley saw his main task as improving the accuracy of the lunar tables. These measurements were however lacking in accuracy, and though they were eventually published their limitations soon became obvious. Halley is buried in St Margaret's Churchyard, Lee, London, SE12.
Creator: Sir Godfrey Kneller
Date: c. 1720
Credit line: National Maritime Museum, London
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