Smyth, C. Piazzi (Charles Piazzi), 1819-1900

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1819-01-03
Death 1900-02-21
Britons

Biographical notes:

Astronomer. Fellow of the Royal Society.

From the description of Papers, 1833-1894. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122560482

The astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth was born in Naples on 3 January 1819. He was educated in Bedford and in 1835 became an Assistant at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. There he observed Halley's Comet in 1836 and co-operated with Sir Thomas Maclear (1794-1879) in the re-measurement and extension of Lacaille's arc. Smyth was Astronomer-Royal for Scotland between 1845 and 1888. In 1852 he organised time-signalling by the dropping of a ball on the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, improved in 1861 to a time-gun fired from Edinburgh Castle. It involved a signal being sent along a 4,000-foot steel cable - laid by sailors from Leith in just two days - to the gun at Edinburgh Castle. (Today, simultaneous with the firing of the gun, a signal ball still drops from the mast atop the Nelson Monument). In 1851, Smyth was in Sweden to witness a total eclipse of the sun, and 1856 he was on Tenerife experimenting with a telescope. In 1857 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. A visit to Russia - visiting observatories - followed in 1859, and in the 1860s he visited Egypt and surveyed the Pyramids. Other activities included: work in spectroscopy; the study of telluric absorption; the construction of a map of the solar spectrum; work with Professor Alexander Herschel on the harmonic character of the carbonic-oxide spectrum; the measuring of the 'citron-ray' of the aurora; gathering meteorological data; the construction of a large solar chart; and, the study of cloud forms using photography. Charles Piazzi Smyth died on 21 February 1900.

From the guide to the Correspondence of Professor Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900), 1849-1871, (Edinburgh University Library)

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Subjects:

  • Photography
  • Astronomy--Research--19th century
  • Astronomical observations--19th century
  • Pyramids
  • Spectroscopy
  • Meteorology
  • Astronomers

Occupations:

  • Astronomers--Scotland

Places:

  • Teide, Pico de (Canary Islands) (as recorded)
  • Scotland (as recorded)