BornNewbury, Berkshire, England, 28 April 1774
DiedLondon, England, 30 August 1844
Although he is better known for his recording of the solar eclipse phenomenon now known as Baily’s beads, Francis Baily’s most important contributions to astronomy include his recomputation and republication of important star catalogs and his determination of the ellipticity and density of the Earth.
Before turning his wealth to his interest in astronomy, Baily had many adventures. As the third son of banker Richard Baily, he had been apprenticed to a London mercantile firm at the age of 14. But by the age of 21, when he had completed his apprenticeship, Baily had instead decided on a career as an explorer. In October 1795, Baily sailed to the United States, where his youthful energy carried him through 2 years of exploration along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to New Orleans, Louisiana. He returned to New York City overland through the rugged backwoods areas. A romantic att...