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Solar Physics

, Volume 280, Issue 1, pp 1–31 | Cite as

Richard Christopher Carrington: Briefly Among the Great Scientists of His Time

  • Edward W. Cliver
  • Norman C. Keer
Memoirs

Abstract

We recount the life and career of Richard Christopher Carrington (1826 – 1875) and explore his pivotal relationship with Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy. Carrington was the pre-eminent solar astronomer of the 19th century. During a ten year span, he determined the position of the Sun’s rotation axis and made the following discoveries: i) the latitude variation of sunspots over the solar cycle, ii) the Sun’s differential rotation, and iii) the first solar flare (with Hodgson). Due to the combined effects of family responsibilities, failure to secure a funded position in astronomy (reflecting Airy’s influence), and ill health, Carrington’s productive period ended when he was at the peak of his powers.

Keywords

Flare Geomagnetic Storm Gold Medal Monthly Notice Spot Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Abbreviations

CUA

Cambridge University Archives

SJL

St. John’s College Library, Papers of John Couch Adams

TCL

Trinity College Library

RGO

Royal Greenwich Observatory

RS

Royal Society

RAS

Royal Astronomical Society

RCC

Carrington

GBA

Airy

Notes

Acknowledgements

It is a pleasure to thank the following: Adam Green for assistance with the Whewell archive at Trinity College; Kathryn McKee for assistance with the Adams archive at St. John’s College; Jacqueline Cox for assistance with the Cambridge University archives; Peter Hingley and Mary Chibnall for support at the RAS Library; Adam Perkins from the Cambridge University Library for help in navigating the Airy archive, deciphering Carrington’s challenging handwriting, and providing historical context and perspective; John Riddick from the British Geological Survey for kindly providing copies of the Greenwich records of the 1859 geomagnetic storm; Iwan Williams and Margaret Penston for drawing our attention and providing access, respectively, to the RAS Club records; and Christine Woollett and Joanna Corden for assistance at the Library of the Royal Society. We thank Lee Stevens and Pete Marenfeld for assistance with the figures and are grateful to the referees for helpful comments. E.W.C. is grateful to Carlene Skeffington for help and support in examining the Airy, Cambridge University, and Whewell archives and to Colin Fenn, Bob Flanagan, and Jill Dudman of the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery for their assistance and hospitality during a visit to Carrington’s gravesite.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Space Vehicles DirectorateAir Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)SunspotUSA
  2. 2.CoodenUK

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