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The George Biddell Airy Biography


According to the George Biddell Airy biography, he was an introverted child who became popular at school because of his great ability to make peashooters. In 1819 he went onto Cambridge to attend Trinity College where he worked as a servant to help pay for his reduced college fee. He graduated with honors in mathematics and in 1826 was appointed Lucian Professor of Mathematics at Trinity College. He held this post for a little over a year when in February 1828, he elected Pulman Professor of Astronomy and director of the new Cambridge observatory. In 1835, he was named Royal Astronomer, a position he held for 46 years. It was then he moved onto the Greenwich Observatory. During his position at Greenwich, he established the current Greenwich prime meridian, reorganized the papers and publications (restoring the work done on lunar observations), and re-equipped the Observatory. By doing so, George Airy also updated the methods for precise stellar observations. He also established the magnetic and meteorological department in 1838.

According to the Sir George Biddell Airy biography in 1845 John Adams came to Airy with reports of a new planet. Sadly Airy ignored him thus giving the discovery of Neptune to other people. Regardless of Airy’s numerous discoveries and contributions this is what he is remembered for.

He continued his work at the observatory. In 1868 began work in spectrum investigations and then in 1873 began keeping detailed daily records of sunspots.

For all his work and contributions to mathematics, optics and astronomy, George Biddell Airy was knighted in 1872 and became known as Sir George Biddell Airy. He remained at the Greenwich Observatory until his retirement in 1881.

Personal Information

It was in the year of 1824 that Airy met and fell in love with Richarda Smith, but her father felt Airy wasn’t a good candidate as a husband. Once George Biddell Airy became established at Cambridge, he finally received permission to marry Richarda Smith in 1830. They had nine children, three of which died in infancy. They remained together until Richarda’s death in 1875.

After Airy retired in 1881, he lived with two married daughters in Cambridge. He suffered a fall and internal injuries. Sir George Biddell Airy only survived the surgery by a couple of days and on January 2, 1992 passed away. He was buried along side his wife and deceased children at St. Mary’s Church in Playford, Suffolk, England

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