Thomas Henderson Biography - Only one of three?

According to the Thomas Henderson Biography, of the Astronomers Royal for Scotland, only three were actually from Scotland and two of these, Thomas Henderson and Malcolm Longair, were from Dundee.

Life and Contributions

Thomas Henderson, one of the younger sons of a tradesman, was born on December 28, 1798 in Dundee, Scotland. According to the Thomas Henderson Biography, Henderson went to school at the Dundee Academy where he showed great promise in mathematics and science. At the age of fifteen, he went to a law office in Dundee and was trained as a lawyer where he worked his way up and eventually became the assistant to several nobles. His maintained a great interest in mathematics and astronomy.

He would develop a method of using lunar eclipses to measure longitude. Henderson came to the attention of Thomas Young, the superintendent of the British Navy’s almanac. Young helped Thomas Henderson enter the world of astronomical science. This would get Henderson a position with the British Observatory in Cape Good Hope in South Africa. It was here that Thomas Henderson and an assistant worked constantly on a catalog of the positions of the southern stars along with the estimated distances of the Sun and Moon and watching various comets.

According to the Thomas Henderson Biography, Henderson made observations of the positions of stars in relation to Alpha Centauri. Henderson surmised that Alpha Centauri was the closest star to our own Sun. Because of the doubt Henderson had in the instruments he had to use, he didn’t publish his ideas until 1839; a year after Bessel published his.

Due to poor health Henderson returned to Scotland in 1833 and took a position at the Carlton Hill Observatory in Edinburgh. During the next ten years Thomas Henderson made observations of over 60,000 stars.

With the death of his wife in 1842, the heavy workload, the physical exertion from the climb from his home to the Observatory, and heart disease, it took a heavy toll on Henderson’s body. Thomas Henderson died on November 23, 1844 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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