Sampson, Ralph Allen

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BornSchull, Co.Cork, Ireland, 25 June 1866

DiedBath, England, 7 November 1939

British astronomer Ralph Sampson made his mark with an analysis of the dynamics of the interactions of the four large (Galilean) satellites of Jupiter. As Astronomer Royal for Scotland he also encouraged major instrumental innovations, including the development of the Shortt Free Pendulum Clock and the use of microphotometers.

Sampson was the fourth of five children of James Sampson from Cornwall and Sarah Anne (née Macdermott) Sampson, an Irishwoman of Huguenot descent. When he was five, the family moved to Liverpool, England, and suffered from deprivation when the father became ill and his investments in the Cornish tin mines failed. As a result, Sampson had little education until the age of 14, when he entered the Liverpool Institute. He won a scholarship to Saint John's College, Cambridge, where his tutor was John Adams, and he graduated as third wrangler in the mathem