W. H. Smyth: The Admirable Admiral
The early Victorian period represented an exceptionally changeable time for astronomy. On the continent, the French, Russians and Germans had established large observatories with professionals at the helm. The United States, still a sleeping giant, had not yet realized her latent talent for producing some of the finest refracting telescopes in the world. But as John Weale reported in an account of London’s observatories in 1851, privately owned establishments, run by wealthy amateurs, were all the rage across England and indeed had become ‘fashionable.’ Immersed in this ‘gentleman astronomer’ culture, William Henry Smyth (1788–1865), a retired sea captain and later admiral in the Royal Navy, flourished (Fig. 12.1).
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