Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 827-828


Goodacre, Walter

Born Loughborough, Leicestershire, England, 1856

Died Bournemouth, Dorset, England, 1 May 1938

Walter Goodacre was the preeminent British selenographer of the early twentieth century. His monograph on the Moon was considered a primary resource for selenographers for several decades after its publication.

Goodacre was born at Loughborough, but in 1863 the family moved to London, where his father founded a carpet manufacturing business. Walter Goodacre established a branch of the family business in India and visited there frequently for 15 years. He succeeded his father as head of the firm in London, remaining in that position until his retirement in 1929.

Attracted to astronomy as a boy, for a time Goodacre directed the Lunar Section of the Liverpool Astronomical Society. As a founding member of the British Astronomical Association [BAA], following the death of Thomas Elger , Goodacre was appointed to the directorship of the BAA Lunar Section, a post he held until 1 year before his death. He served as president of the BAA from 1922 to 1924, and was a lifetime fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

In 1910, Goodacre issued a 77-in-diameter lunar map (scale 1:1,800,000) in 25 sections, the first such map to employ rectangular coordinates or direction cosines. Principally based on photographs, it employed 1,400 positions measured from negatives obtained at the Paris and Yerkes observatories by Samuel Saunder , a mathematics master at Wellington College. Although inferior in aesthetic appeal to the earlier maps of Johann von Mädler and Johann Schmidt , it was far superior in positional accuracy. Goodacre’s map served as the basis of the first detailed lunar contour map, constructed in 1934 by the German selenographer Helmut Ritter.

In 1931, Goodacre privately published a book containing a reduced copy of his map and an exhaustive description of the named formations under the title The Moon with a Description of Its Surface Features. Unfortunately, the press run was a short one, and the volume is now exceedingly rare, commanding exorbitant prices by collectors. For his monograph, Goodacre reduced the scale of his 1910 map from 77 to 60 in, enhanced it with additional detail, and then divided it into 25 sections to facilitate his discussion of various lunar features. His 41-page introduction to the book is a useful introduction to selenography and includes a discussion of the classification of lunar structures supplemented by six plates containing 36 diagrams and one photograph. The discussion includes historical observers as well as more contemporary authorities like William Pickering .

Goodacre’s approach to selenography was pure Baconian empiricism. He wrote:

One of the chief sources of pleasure to the lunar observer is to discover and record, at some time or other, details not on any of the maps. It also follows that in the future when a map is produced which shows all the detail visible in our telescopes, then the task of selenography will be completed.

In 1928, Goodacre endowed a fund to the BAA for the recognition of outstanding members. The Walter Goodacre Medal and Gift is considered the association’s highest honor; it has been awarded approximately biennially since 1930. In 1883, Goodacre married Frances Elizabeth Evison; their marriage was blessed with two children, though Francis died in 1910.

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
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