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Jeremiah Horrocks: His Origins and Education

Jeremiah Horrocks has become, in so many ways, a figure of legendary standing in British science. For while we know that he died on January 3rd 1641, and was later described by his former Cambridge contemporary, John Wallis, as being 22 years old at the time, we have no exact details about his birth date. We know nothing of Jeremiah's personal appearance. Nor do we know anything about his political beliefs during that frenetic decade that ran up to the outbreak of civil war in 1642, though as he spent four years in the relatively radical Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he was probably not a supporter of Royal absolutism. His background at Emmanuel would also suggest that he would not have supported Archbishop Laud's formulation of the Divine Right of Kings, in his personal churchmanship, though it would be jumping the gun to call him a Puritan. That he was a committed Christian goes without saying, but everything suggests that he was happy to stay within the Established Church, and did not align himself with those break-away groups more generally considered as Puritan. That he possessed a thorough-going intellectual honesty also shines through his quite substantial body of surviving writings. He also possessed a love of intellectual combat, as is clear from the way in which he took issue with more traditional astronomers when comparing their writings with his own discoveries. But the popular image of Jeremiah formulated by scientific hagiographers in the Victorian age as a frail, sickly, dreamy youth, whose self-denying genius drove him to an early grave - tells us more about the Victorians than it does about Horrocks. For no man who could survive the rigours of a poor man's scholarship in Cambridge, absorb most of the contemporary literature of European astronomy, make half a dozen discoveries, and write hundreds of letters and two major treatises before he was 22 is likely to have been anything other than vigorous. That he died at 22 is no indication of a weak constitution, for in the seventeenth century, the omnipresence of lethal infections meant that the strong were at risk almost as much as the weak. And as Jeremiah died on the January day immediately prior to the one upon which he was planning to visit his friend Crabtree in Salford - a journey of some 30 miles, we might conclude that his end was sudden and unexpected. But whether it came as a consequence of a physical accident or a marauding virus, we do not know. Jeremiah Horrocks was born in Toxteth, Liverpool, probably in 1619. We know that his mother was Mary Aspinwall, though as to whether his father was called William or James, there is no exact record. Some sources suggest, but do not prove, that his father came from the Deane district of Bolton, though the Aspinwalls were a family of some standing in Toxteth. They combined the local trades of yeoman farming and watchmaking, and tradition says that a watchmaker uncle was the first person to interest Jeremiah in astronomy. We know that Jeremiah had a brother named Jonas, who went to Ireland in the 1640s, though as none of the Toxteth local records survive for the period, we lack solid documentation. Jeremiah's early education is similarly a subject of conjecture. While he might have received part of his schooling from the Reverend Richard Mather, who was certainly active in the Liverpool area at the time, there is no proof. Suffice it to say, however, that the Horrocks and Aspinwall families were sufficiently motivated with regard to education to send him to Cambridge in 1632, when he would have been about 13. He entered Emmanuel College as a Sizar, or poor scholar, on May 11th 1632, and spent four years in the University prior to corning back to Lancashire in 1635. Jeremiah's very youthful entry into Cambridge need not indicate untoward precocity, for one finds that it was common to enter University in one's early teens in the seventeenth century, when a B.A. degree was closer to a modern 'A' level in standing. The fact that Horrocks took neither a B.A. nor an M.A. indicates nothing beyond the fact that he was poor. It was an expensive business going through the rituals of 'supplicating' for a degree in those days, when special caps, gowns and hoods had to be purchased and University officers liberally tipped. Many men, upon the completion of their studies, left without one, intending to return when they had made some money to be examined, and thereby regularise their status as Bachelors and Masters of Arts. We have no record of Jeremiah's undergraduate career, although we know that astronomy would not have formed any significant curricular part of it. In those days a student did not go to University to read a specific subject, but to acquire a general degree in classical languages, literature, and divinity. A few fragments of classical astronomy and geometry would have been included in the general arts course, or Quadrivium, but the 'new' astronomy of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo that we know he came to study in Cambridge would have been extra-curricular reading. It would have been equivalent to the modern literature student playing a musical instrument for relaxation. After leaving Cambridge without a degree in 1635, he returned to Lancashire, where he probably lived in Toxteth. But he soon established a scientific correspondence with William Crabtree of Salford, and the two men were to exchange many letters over the following years. I suggest that Horrocks came to make the acquaintance of Crabtree via John Worthington of Manchester, who was an undergraduate contemporary at Cambridge. It was to be this same John Worthington, moreover, who in 1659 (and by then Master of Jesus College, Cambridge) first attempted to get some of Jeremiah's astronomical papers published. 2. Jeremiah Horrocks at Much Hoole We have no documentary sources that indicate why Jeremiah Horrocks came to live in Much Hoole, Lancashire, though he was addressing his letters from the village between June 8th 1639 and April 20th 1640. Very frustratingly, he specifies no house as his residence, and one is left to assume that in 1639 any messenger could easily have found him. Local tradition says that he lived at Carr House, which was a substantial residence owned by the Stones family, who were prosperous farmers and merchants in the process of transforming themselves from yeomanry to gentry. Nineteenth-century writers on Horrocks generally state that he came to Hoole as curate of St. Michael's Church, which until 1641 was a Chapel of Ease to the mother church at nearby Croston. Horrocks could not have been curate, however, for then as now the law required a man to be 23 years old to be ordained deacon, and 24 for a full priest, and Jeremiah had already left the parish by the time that he was 21. No seventeenth- or eighteenth-century sources ever mention Horrocks as being a clergyman, while John Wallis, John Worthington, and John Flamsteed, who were early admirers of Horrocks and who were themselves Anglican clergymen, never write of him as Reverend. Nor did his friend Crabtree, when he penned a touching obituary to Horrocks in 1641; and while the astronomer Jeremiah Shakerley gave him the Greek appellation 'Graced by God' in 1649, he did not imply clerical status. Some Victorian and later writers who created and perpetuated the 'curate of Hoole' myth have tried to get around the age problem by arguing that Jeremiah was ordained by special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury. But this is frankly absurd, for procuring such a licence would have been a costly business, and totally unnecessary unless a rich patron had a profitable benefice which was to be presented to an under-age man, usually a relative. But the idea of obtaining a licence to make a twenty-year-old without a B.A. an unbeneficed curate does not make historical sense. In all probability, it was Jeremiah's intention to complete the procedures for his B.A. and M.A. degrees, and then proceed to Holy Orders when he was old enough, though sadly, his life was cut short. We have, therefore, no firm evidence to explain what he was doing in Hoole. Most likely, he was employed in some literary capacity by the Stones family, perhaps as a tutor for their children, and no doubt acting as a lay Bible Clerk in church, where he could have read the psalms, collects and epistles. We can suggest, however, that if Jeremiah was in any way employed by the Stones family during his stay in Much Hoole, he was not a Puritan. For the Stones family had presented a font to the parish church of St. Michael, along with a communion chalice and platter. These were sacramental vessels, and as such, strongly disapproved of by many Puritans, who regarded the sacraments as 'Popish'. The Stones family also endowed Much Hoole as a new parish in the Anglican Communion in 1641, with Robert Fogg as the first rector. It is unlikely that a family that displayed such marks of loyalty to the sacramental offices of the Anglican Church would have employed a theological radical. 3. Jeremiah Horrocks and the Scientific Revolution In the century that preceded Jeremiah's birth, astronomers in Poland, Denmark, Austria and Italy had transformed mankind's ideas of the structure of the universe. Since the days of the ancient Greek astronomers who had lived 2,000 years before, educated opinion had accepted an earth-centred theory of the universe. The seven planets, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were only discovered in 1781, 1846 and 1930 respectively) were thought of not as worlds, but as shining lights that were attached to a set of nine transparent spheres. These spheres rested inside each other like the skins of an onion, and the fixed and motionless Earth was at the centre. The respective speeds of rotation of the spheres produced varying speeds at which the heavenly bodies rotated, such as the Sun's 365 1/4-day year and the 28 days of the lunar month. All of the stars were believed to be attached to a single black sphere that rotated around the Earth once a day, to make the constellations rise and set once every 24 hours. Then in 1543, a Polish physician and cathedral dignitary of Frauenburg, Nicholas Copernicus, published a well-argued book which stated that it was the Sun, and not the Earth, which lay at the centre of the universe. According to Copernicus, the heavenly bodies, including the Earth, moved around the SUN, and their apparent risings and settings were caused purely by the Earth's own daily rotation on its axis a very novel idea in 1543. In spite of the novelty, if not outrageousness, of Copernicus's ideas, the learned world felt obliged to consider them seriously. It was a Danish nobleman, Tycho Brahe, however, who realised that exchanges of words would prove nothing one way or the other, and that a massive body of new and original observations was required to test Copernicus's ideas. Between 1572 and 1598, Tycho re-mapped the entire northern heavens from his castle of Uraniborg using geometrical instruments of his own design, and while even this great body of data failed to prove anything conclusively, it none the less had the effect of getting astronomers across Europe into the habit of making original observations instead of relying upon ancient tables when it came to interpreting the cosmos. But it was the Italian, Galileo Galilei, who was the first man to produce fundamental new evidence indicating that the Earth probably rotated around the Sun. Between 1609 and 1611, Galileo made a series of quite spectacular discoveries with the recently invented telescope. He saw craters on the Moon, spots upon the Sun, the phases of Venus, countless thousands of previously unknown stars in the Milky Way, and four bright satellites rotating around the planet Jupiter. Galileo's observations showed conclusively that there were far more bodies in space than the ancient astronomers had believed, and that the planets were not just lights in the sky, but worlds in their own right. In short, Galileo dramatically enlarged mankind's perspective and scale of reference of the universe, and had done this by careful observation with a new type of instrument. Furthermore, when subjecting Tycho Brahe's observations to rigorous mathematical analysis in 1608, the Austrian Johannes Kepler came to realise that the planet Mars not only moved around the Sun, but that it did so in an elliptical orbit. Since time immemorial, astronomers had thought that the circle, in its geometrical perfection, was the only shape through which the planets could move. But in addition to Mars's elliptical orbit, Kepler realised that the planet could not be attached to a transparent sphere, but must move in space as a result of forces which were invisible in themselves but which none the less followed exact mathematical laws. Between them, these four astronomers had challenged ancient ideas by the discovery of new evidence gained by observation and the use of instruments. By the time of Jeremiah Horrocks' birth in 1619, therefore, European astronomers had advanced strong arguments for the rotation of the Earth around the Sun, had abandoned the idea that the planets were attached to transparent spheres, and had come to realise that at least one planet, Mars, moved in an egg-shaped orbit around the Sun, and did so in accordance with exact geometrical laws. Though many English astronomers were familiar with these ideas that came in from abroad, no fundamental discoveries had yet been made here. From the mid-seventeenth century onwards, of course, England was to steal the European lead in astronomy with figures such as Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, John Flamsteed and Edmond Halley, but the man whom everyone came to realise made the first specifically English advances was Jeremiah Horrocks. 4. Horrocks' Astronomical Discoveries From a note surviving from 1635, we know that Jeremiah had read most of the major astronomical treatises of his day and was fully familiar with the European discoveries outlined above. Yet he had already detected their weaknesses, and was suggesting new lines of research by the time that he was seventeen. What especially interested Horrocks was the realisation, from Kepler, that there were no transparent spheres holding up the planets, and that at least Mars moved in an elliptical orbit. Working from Toxteth, he set about applying Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion to the Moon, and from a series of detailed observations, was able to demonstrate that it moved in an elliptical path around the Earth. And just as the Sun occupied one of the two focal points of the elliptical orbit of Mars, so the Earth occupied one of the focal points of the Moon's orbit. In short, Horrocks had shown that Kepler's Laws had a universal application and hoped, given time, that he could demonstrate their application to the other planets as well. He also wrote a treatise on Keplerian astronomy, and came to explore mathematically the properties of the invisible force that made the planets go around the Sun in their elliptical orbits. The eighteen-year-old Jeremiah also realised that not only did this force diminish in intensity as one got further away from the Sun, but that the diminution itself followed a strict mathematical law. This was why Mercury, the nearest planet to the Sun, flew around in 88 days, the Earth, as third out, took 365 1/4 days, while Saturn, at the edge of the solar system, took 30 years. To put it plainly, Jeremiah Horrocks, working with home-made wooden instruments in a Lancashire village and lacking the patronage of a university or a prince, had taken up planetary dynamics where Johannes Kepler (who was Mathematician to the Holy Roman Emperor) had left off. And the contributions which Horrocks made were later acknowledged by Sir Isaac Newton, for they provided the developments which connected the work of the four European astronomers with Newton. Jeremiah's work on the lunar orbit and the geometry of the force that powered the solar system was of great importance to Newton's Theory of Universal Gravitation as published in Principia Mathematica in 1687. Intellectually significant as this work was, it is not the part of Horrocks' achievement for which he is most famous today. This was his prediction and observation of the transit of Venus across the Sun's disk on November 24th 1639, which he made at Much Hoole. 5. The Transit of Venus Ever since his student days in Cambridge, Jeremiah had made independent observations of planetary positions in the sky, and compared them with the numbers published in the astronomical tables. And he found that those tables were frequently wrong when compared against the sky, especially the Tables of the Belgian, Phillip Lansberg. In October 1639, he was not surprised to see that all of the published tables differed from each other as to the exact date, time, and position whereby the planet Venus would pass through Inferior Conjunction. At Inferior Conjunction, Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth, though Jeremiah calculated that when this impending event took place towards the end of November 1639, it would pass directly across the disk of the Sun. Though Kepler had correctly predicted that such a transit would occur in 1631, and that another would occur in 1761, Jeremiah came to realise that one would also occur in 1639. Venus transits are very rare, and occur about 120 years apart. But what Horrocks discovered is that while over a century separates the orbital configurations which produce the appearances, the transits themselves occur not singly, but in a pair, eight years apart. There had been a transit in 1631 (though no one had seen it in Europe because of its occurring when the Sun was below the horizon), and there would be another in 1639. Similarly, the transit of 1761 was followed by another in 1769, and that of 1874 by one in 1882. No transits have occurred during the twentieth century, but the next pair will fall in 2004 and 2012. Horrocks was living at Hoole, probably in Carr House, when he made this discovery, and with less than a month to go, made plans to observe the transit. To make the observation, he set up a simple telescope (for which he says he had paid half- a-crown, or 12 1/2p) so that it could project an image of the Sun inside a carefully graduated circle that was six inches in diameter. The day on which the transit took place was a Sunday, and Jeremiah speaks of 'higher things' that also occupied his time that day. It has been these 'higher things' that gave rise to the speculation that Jeremiah was curate of Hoole, though when one looks at how he spent November 24th 1639, one realises that (in addition to the under-age problem) this could not have been the case. By his own admission, Jeremiah spent between four and five hours of that short wintry Sunday watching at his telescope. The rest of his time would no doubt have been spent at meals, attending church, or perhaps catechising the children of the Stones household. In short, he spent rather more time at his telescope than many devout Christians could have afforded for a 'leisure' activity on a Sunday. And it is very unlikely that a clergyman could have found so much time during the seven or so hours that the Sun would have been clearly visible above the horizon on November 24th (December 6th in the modern calendar), let alone a busy curate! But not until 3.15 p.m., when the Sun was within half an hour of setting, did he see his awaited transit of Venus. After a day of indifferent weather, the Sun broke through into a clear stretch of sky as it approached the horizon, and Jeremiah saw a small, perfectly circular, black dot upon its disk as he projected the solar image through his telescope on to his graduated circle. During the thirty minutes of sunlight that remained, he made three accurate measurements, as the black dot of Venus moved across the Sun's face. That half-hour was one of the most momentous in British astronomy. From the transit observations, he was able to measure the angular size of the planet Venus, calculate the beginning and ending times of the transit, and further calculate the planet's orbital velocity. But more important, he was able to derive important facts about the orbit of Venus by relating the geometry of its position on the Sun's disk to the much better known apparent motion of the Sun itself. Seventeenth-century astronomers knew more, mathematically speaking, about the annual orbit of the Sun through the sky than they did about the path of any of the planets. By knowing exactly where Venus was, with relation to the Sun, at 3.45 p.m. on November 24th 1639, Horrocks was able to make considerable advances in our knowledge of planetary motion. Over the following few weeks, after Venus had passed across the Sun and become a brilliant morning star in the eastern sky before dawn, Jeremiah continued to measure its exact angle of separation from the Sun. It was his intention to prove that Venus, like Mars and the Moon, moved in an elliptical orbit that followed Kepler's Laws. This is why Horrocks' work on the transit of Venus was of such significance, for it was far more than a lucky observation made by a bright local lad. It was the first major achievement of British astronomical research, and had international repercussions. The scientific conclusions that Jeremiah correctly derived from the observation provided dramatic confirmation of the work of Kepler, Tycho, Galileo and Copernicus. It was in continental Europe, and not in England, moreover, that Horrocks' treatise on the transit of Venus was first published. The eminent Dantzig astronomer, Johannes Hevelius, had somehow obtained a manuscript copy of Horrocks' treatise, and published it at his own expense under the Latin title Venus in sub Sole Visa (Venus in transit across the Sun) in 1662. It was not in London, Oxford, Cambridge or a princely court, therefore, that British astronomy made its debut on to the world stage, but in a remote Lancashire village, at the hand of an obscure twenty-year-old. 6. William Crabtree and William Gascoigne Much of what we know of Jeremiah's ongoing research between 1636 and 1640 comes from the correspondence which he exchanged with the Salford cloth merchant, William Crabtree (1610-1644). The two men were well-read in the new astronomy of continental Europe, and keen to make advances. Both men measured planetary and stellar positions, and it was Crabtree who had provided confirmation of the transit of Venus observation, for he had kept watch with his telescope in Salford and seen the black dot of Venus on the Sun's disk. William Gascoigne (1612-1644) was a country gentleman of Middleton near Leeds, and had received at least part of his education at Oxford. It seems unlikely, however, that Gascoigne and Horrocks ever met, for they only acknowledged an awareness of each other in 1640. It was almost certainly William Crabtree who was the go-between, for Crabtree maintained a correspondence with mathematicians in other parts of England, and had commercial connections in London. There is no evidence to suggest that Gascoigne played any part in the transit of Venus observations, and it is likely that the acquaintance was made after November 1639. Gascoigne's significance lies not so much in observational or theoretical astronomy, however, as in invention, for he clearly possessed an aptitude for practical subjects. It was William Gascoigne who solved the optical problem which had teased astronomers across Europe for 30 years: how to put some sort of cross-wires, or marker point, into the field of view of a telescope so that the geometrical centre of the field could be defined. By inventing such a device, in 1638, Gascoigne made it possible to mount telescopes on the sighting arms of astronomical angle-measuring instruments to obtain much more precise positions for the stars and planets. Gascoigne then came to realise that if an astronomer could have one marker-point in his field of view, then why should he not have two? One marker could remain fixed, and the other could be made to move under the control of a fine-pitched screw. By knowing the full angle encompassed by the telescope's field of view, an observer could enclose an astronomical body, such as the Moon, between the fixed and moveable pointers. He could then use the turns of the screw controlling the moving pointer to work out the fraction of field enclosed by both pointers and thereby measure the Moon's angular diameter with unparalleled accuracy. The instrument came to be known as the micrometer, and was first demonstrated to the Royal Society in 1667 by Robert Hooke. When Horrocks first heard of Gascoigne's device from Crabtree in 1640, he was very desirous to obtain one for himself. He realised that the micrometer would be an ideal instrument with which to measure slight variations in the apparent diameter of the Moon as it approached and receded from the Earth in its elliptical orbit. It is interesting to think that the telescopic sight and micrometer, which were to become such fundamental instruments in astronomical research down to the present day, were also products of the Horrocks circle, and derived from an amateur mechanician and astronomer working in a Yorkshire manor house. 7. Science and Christianity in the Seventeenth Century It is commonly believed that when modern science began in the seventeenth century, its exponents were persecuted by the Church. Yet this presumed hostility between Christianity and science was itself a piece of late-nineteenth-century historical revisionism and owed more to the late Victorian controversy about Darwinism than it did to the Renaissance astronomical revolution. It is popularly assumed that the Church condemned people who believed in Copernicus's theory of the moving Earth that was published in 1543, though in fact it was not until 1616 that the Catholic Establishment showed any official interest in the matter. And that interest, and subsequent condemnation by the Holy Office, came about initially as a result of Galileo's abrasive clashes with the eminent Jesuit astronomer Christopher Schiener. In fact, Galileo, through his love of controversy and fondness of abusive language, crossed two Popes (one of whom, Pope Urban VIII, had been his former patron), several scholarly Cardinals, and most of the Italian university establishment, and this led to his Copernican ideas being formally silenced in 1633. The Catholic Church, up to the time of Galileo, had no official policy about how the physical universe operated, and was willing to leave these esoteric speculations to philosophers unless they compromised points of Christian doctrine. Medieval scholars such as Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Nicholas of Cusa had speculated about the construction of the heavens and the Earth, and received no rebuke. Nicole de Oresme in the fourteenth century had even argued that the movement of the stars was an illusion caused by the rotation of the Earth. And Oresme was a French bishop, as well as a distinguished physicist. The Church also accepted that textual contradictions occurred in the Bible (unlike modern fundamenta1ists), and that certain passages should be read allegorically, and not literally. In fact, the Church had acknowledged for centuries that the study of the physical world could be theologically beneficial to mankind, for its complexity displayed the handiwork of God. But all of this was to be done within the conventions of learned debate, and any Italian Catholic who personally antagonised leading dignitaries of the Church because of their lukewarmness towards modern discoveries could only expect what he received. Though he might have made hackles rise by his ironical tone, Galileo made a valid point when he argued that nature in itself was a book to God's glory, and that the Bible, as a revelation, was intended by God 'to show us how to go to heaven, and not how the heavens go'. And as an English Protestant, Jeremiah Horrocks would have found far fewer restrictions to scientific research than a continental Catholic would have felt after 1633. Quite simply, the Church of England had no policies on science whatsoever, and during the 1630s, the English bishops were more concerned with the theology of the Divine Right of Kings than they were with the shape of the orbit of the Moon. What shines through Jeremiah's writings is a sense of awe and praise for the Deity who could make a universe that was so intricate and so beautiful. One also perceives his sense of privilege at being the first human creature to learn of certain things - such as the shape of the Moon's orbit - or to see the transit of Venus. Horrocks' attitude towards science - as the great revealer of God's design to the human intellect - was shared by the following generations of English scientists who came to form the Royal Society in 1660, and which published his surviving letters and treatises in 1672. John Wallis, who edited Horrocks' Opera Posthuma, was a clerical mathematician who refused a Deanery to remain a professor. The Royal Society's effective founder, the Oxford astronomer John Wilkins, became Bishop of Chester in 1668, and would have come thereby to have spiritual supervision over Much Hoole which was then in the diocese of Chester. Seth Ward moved from an astronomical professorship at Oxford to the Bishopric of Sacrum at Salisbury, while the man who wrote the first History of the Royal Society and its work in 1667, Thomas Sprat, became Bishop of Rochester. The 'father of English chemistry', the Hon. Robert Boyle, was invited by King Charles II to take Holy Orders so that he could receive preferment in the Restoration Church, but refused, arguing that he felt more able to promote the Christian faith if he were not obliged to do so by law. These men represented the intellectual cream of Horrocks' generation, and show how powerfully they unified the investigations of science not only with their Christian faith, but also with the holding of high ecclesiastical office. Had Jeremiah lived into his fifties rather than dying at 22, he could well have been one of their number. 8. Horrocks' Death and Reputation As I pointed out above, we know nothing about Horrocks' death beyond the fact that it took place suddenly, on January 3rd 1641. His friend William Crabtree wrote on the back of a bundle of his letters: 'Mr. Jeremiah Horrocks' letters to me for the years 1638, 1639, 1640 up to the day of his death, very suddenly, on the morning of the 3rd January [1641]; the day before he had arranged to come to me. Thus God puts an end to all worldly affairs. I have lost, alas, my dear Horrocks. Hinc illae lachrimae [thus the tears fall]. Irreparable loss.' Crabtree himself, though nine years older than Horrocks, only lived to the age of 34, making his will on July 19th 1644 and being buried in the precincts of Manchester Collegiate Church, now the Cathedral, on August 1st of the same year. We do not know how he died. William Gascoigne took a Royalist Commission at the outbreak of the Civil War in the summer of 1642 and was soon promoted to Providore for Yorkshire. He then enjoyed the unique distinction of having been reported killed in no less than three subsequent battles, though the Lancashire historian, Christopher Townley of Townley Hall, Burnley, was probably correct in saying that Gascoigne fell at Marston Moor, in 1644. Christopher Townley, after all, was in a good position to know, for he was present at the battle in which so many Lancastrian and Yorkshire gentlemen were killed in the Royalist cause. His elder brother Richard had been amongst them, and the Townleys and the Gascoignes were on friendly terms. It was Christopher Townley, indeed, who rescued most of Horrocks' surviving correspondence in about 1645, when he collected what he could find belonging to the now deceased Horrocks, Crabtree and Gascoigne. And from 1648 onwards, Horrocks' admirers started to visit Townley Hall to see his preserved papers. They included Jeremy Shakerley of Pendle Forest, Lancashire, whose three published works on astronomy between 1649 and 1653 liberally acknowledge 'that Noble Genius, our Worthy Country-Man, Master Jeremy Horrox'. These constitute the first printed acknowledgements to Jeremiah Horrocks. The Royalist mathematician, Sir Jonas Moore, also studied them, and twenty-odd years later, in 1675, he was one of the motivating forces that led to King Charles II founding the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Very appropriately, the Royal Observatory's first director, or Astronomer Royal, the Reverend John Flamsteed, had studied Horrocks' papers at Townley Hall. When Flamsteed published his own magnum opus, the Historia Coelestis Britannica (British Account of the Heavens, 1725), he commenced the catalogue of observations by publishing some hitherto unseen letters and observations of Horrocks' circle, which he considered as the starting-point of serious astronomical research in Britain. From the 1660's onwards, eulogies to Horrocks and his friends came to abound, from Newton in England, Hevelius in Poland, Cassini in France, and from elsewhere. But it was the earnest Victorians who eulogised him most of all, by adoring his undisputed intellectual achievements with a moral character and even a personal appearance that have no grounding in recorded evidence. It was in Victorian England that we first encounter the posthumously ordained Reverend Curate of Hoole. The Reverend Robert Brickel, Rector of Hoole, was tireless in the promotion of Jeremiah, and was said by his friends to be seized with 'Horrocks fever'. But we must also thank Mr. Brickel for securing appropriate memorials to Jeremiah: a plaque in Westminster Abbey, and two stained glass windows and other memorials in St. Michael's Church, Much Hoole. But the greatest romanticization of Horrocks is to be found in Eyre Crowe's painting, in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, which depicts him as an intense, emaciated Puritan, observing the 1639 transit of Venus with an elaborate equatorial telescopic apparatus. William Crabtree fared no better at the hands of Ford Madox Brown, who painted the Salford merchant observing the same transit in one of the twelve historical murals that were commissioned to decorate the Great Hall of Manchester's new Town Hall in about 1880. Crabtree, who was a successful twenty-nine-year-old merchant in 1639, is depicted as a wild-eyed, skeletal septuagenarian observing with a brass telescope of late eighteenth-century design. He is accompanied by an appropriately pre- Raphaelite wife. But we must remember that Horrocks' scientific achievements would have been sufficient to bring distinction to a career that covered forty years rather than a mere half-dozen. And when such outstanding achievement is conjoined with such an absence of personal details, we cannot altogether blame the human imagination for clothing Horrocks, and his friends, in the acceptable social fashions of the day. Yet if we think of Frauenburg in 1543, Copenhagen in 1572, Prague in 1608, and Venice and Florence in 1610 as the places in which modern astronomy was born, then we must not forget Much Hoole in 1639. March 1994 Allan Chapman
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Horrocks

Jeremiah Horrocks: His

Origins and Education

Jeremiah Horrocks has become, in so many ways, a figure of legendary standing in British science. For while we know that he died on January 3rd 1641, and was later described by his former Cambridge contemporary, John Wallis, as being 22 years old at the time, we have no exact details about his birth date. We know nothing of Jeremiah's personal appearance. Nor do we know anything about his political beliefs during that frenetic decade that ran up to the outbreak of civil war in 1642, though as he spent four years in the relatively radical Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he was probably not a supporter of Royal absolutism. His background at Emmanuel would also suggest that he would not have supported Archbishop Laud's formulation of the Divine Right of Kings, in his personal churchmanship, though it would be jumping the gun to call him a Puritan. That he was a committed Christian goes without saying, but everything suggests that he was happy to stay within the Established Church, and did not align himself with those break- away groups more generally considered as Puritan. That he possessed a thorough-going intellectual honesty also shines through his quite substantial body of surviving writings. He also possessed a love of intellectual combat, as is clear from the way in which he took issue with more traditional astronomers when comparing their writings with his own discoveries. But the popular image of Jeremiah formulated by scientific hagiographers in the Victorian age as a frail, sickly, dreamy youth, whose self-denying genius drove him to an early grave - tells us more about the Victorians than it does about Horrocks. For no man who could survive the rigours of a poor man's scholarship in Cambridge, absorb most of the contemporary literature of European astronomy, make half a dozen discoveries, and write hundreds of letters and two major treatises before he was 22 is likely to have been anything other than vigorous. That he died at 22 is no indication of a weak constitution, for in the seventeenth century, the omnipresence of lethal infections meant that the strong were at risk almost as much as the weak. And as Jeremiah died on the January day immediately prior to the one upon which he was planning to visit his friend Crabtree in Salford - a journey of some 30 miles, we might conclude that his end was sudden and unexpected. But whether it came as a consequence of a physical accident or a marauding virus, we do not know. Jeremiah Horrocks was born in Toxteth, Liverpool, probably in 1619. We know that his mother was Mary Aspinwall, though as to whether his father was called William or James, there is no exact record. Some sources suggest, but do not prove, that his father came from the Deane district of Bolton, though the Aspinwalls were a family of some standing in Toxteth. They combined the local trades of yeoman farming and watchmaking, and tradition says that a watchmaker uncle was the first person to interest Jeremiah in astronomy. We know that Jeremiah had a brother named Jonas, who went to Ireland in the 1640s, though as none of the Toxteth local records survive for the period, we lack solid documentation. Jeremiah's early education is similarly a subject of conjecture. While he might have received part of his schooling from the Reverend Richard Mather, who was certainly active in the Liverpool area at the time, there is no proof. Suffice it to say, however, that the Horrocks and Aspinwall families were sufficiently motivated with regard to education to send him to Cambridge in 1632, when he would have been about 13. He entered Emmanuel College as a Sizar, or poor scholar, on May 11th 1632, and spent four years in the University prior to corning back to Lancashire in 1635. Jeremiah's very youthful entry into Cambridge need not indicate untoward precocity, for one finds that it was common to enter University in one's early teens in the seventeenth century, when a B.A. degree was closer to a modern 'A' level in standing. The fact that Horrocks took neither a B.A. nor an M.A. indicates nothing beyond the fact that he was poor. It was an expensive business going through the rituals of 'supplicating' for a degree in those days, when special caps, gowns and hoods had to be purchased and University officers liberally tipped. Many men, upon the completion of their studies, left without one, intending to return when they had made some money to be examined, and thereby regularise their status as Bachelors and Masters of Arts. We have no record of Jeremiah's undergraduate career, although we know that astronomy would not have formed any significant curricular part of it. In those days a student did not go to University to read a specific subject, but to acquire a general degree in classical languages, literature, and divinity. A few fragments of classical astronomy and geometry would have been included in the general arts course, or Quadrivium, but the 'new' astronomy of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo that we know he came to study in Cambridge would have been extra-curricular reading. It would have been equivalent to the modern literature student playing a musical instrument for relaxation. After leaving Cambridge without a degree in 1635, he returned to Lancashire, where he probably lived in Toxteth. But he soon established a scientific correspondence with William Crabtree of Salford, and the two men were to exchange many letters over the following years. I suggest that Horrocks came to make the acquaintance of Crabtree via John Worthington of Manchester, who was an undergraduate contemporary at Cambridge. It was to be this same John Worthington, moreover, who in 1659 (and by then Master of Jesus College, Cambridge) first attempted to get some of Jeremiah's astronomical papers published. 2. Jeremiah Horrocks at Much Hoole We have no documentary sources that indicate why Jeremiah Horrocks came to live in Much Hoole, Lancashire, though he was addressing his letters from the village between June 8th 1639 and April 20th 1640. Very frustratingly, he specifies no house as his residence, and one is left to assume that in 1639 any messenger could easily have found him. Local tradition says that he lived at Carr House, which was a substantial residence owned by the Stones family, who were prosperous farmers and merchants in the process of transforming themselves from yeomanry to gentry. Nineteenth- century writers on Horrocks generally state that he came to Hoole as curate of St. Michael's Church, which until 1641 was a Chapel of Ease to the mother church at nearby Croston. Horrocks could not have been curate, however, for then as now the law required a man to be 23 years old to be ordained deacon, and 24 for a full priest, and Jeremiah had already left the parish by the time that he was 21. No seventeenth- or eighteenth-century sources ever mention Horrocks as being a clergyman, while John Wallis, John Worthington, and John Flamsteed, who were early admirers of Horrocks and who were themselves Anglican clergymen, never write of him as Reverend. Nor did his friend Crabtree, when he penned a touching obituary to Horrocks in 1641; and while the astronomer Jeremiah Shakerley gave him the Greek appellation 'Graced by God' in 1649, he did not imply clerical status. Some Victorian and later writers who created and perpetuated the 'curate of Hoole' myth have tried to get around the age problem by arguing that Jeremiah was ordained by special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury. But this is frankly absurd, for procuring such a licence would have been a costly business, and totally unnecessary unless a rich patron had a profitable benefice which was to be presented to an under- age man, usually a relative. But the idea of obtaining a licence to make a twenty-year-old without a B.A. an unbeneficed curate does not make historical sense. In all probability, it was Jeremiah's intention to complete the procedures for his B.A. and M.A. degrees, and then proceed to Holy Orders when he was old enough, though sadly, his life was cut short. We have, therefore, no firm evidence to explain what he was doing in Hoole. Most likely, he was employed in some literary capacity by the Stones family, perhaps as a tutor for their children, and no doubt acting as a lay Bible Clerk in church, where he could have read the psalms, collects and epistles. We can suggest, however, that if Jeremiah was in any way employed by the Stones family during his stay in Much Hoole, he was not a Puritan. For the Stones family had presented a font to the parish church of St. Michael, along with a communion chalice and platter. These were sacramental vessels, and as such, strongly disapproved of by many Puritans, who regarded the sacraments as 'Popish'. The Stones family also endowed Much Hoole as a new parish in the Anglican Communion in 1641, with Robert Fogg as the first rector. It is unlikely that a family that displayed such marks of loyalty to the sacramental offices of the Anglican Church would have employed a theological radical. 3. Jeremiah Horrocks and the Scientific Revolution In the century that preceded Jeremiah's birth, astronomers in Poland, Denmark, Austria and Italy had transformed mankind's ideas of the structure of the universe. Since the days of the ancient Greek astronomers who had lived 2,000 years before, educated opinion had accepted an earth-centred theory of the universe. The seven planets, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were only discovered in 1781, 1846 and 1930 respectively) were thought of not as worlds, but as shining lights that were attached to a set of nine transparent spheres. These spheres rested inside each other like the skins of an onion, and the fixed and motionless Earth was at the centre. The respective speeds of rotation of the spheres produced varying speeds at which the heavenly bodies rotated, such as the Sun's 365 1/4-day year and the 28 days of the lunar month. All of the stars were believed to be attached to a single black sphere that rotated around the Earth once a day, to make the constellations rise and set once every 24 hours. Then in 1543, a Polish physician and cathedral dignitary of Frauenburg, Nicholas Copernicus, published a well-argued book which stated that it was the Sun, and not the Earth, which lay at the centre of the universe. According to Copernicus, the heavenly bodies, including the Earth, moved around the SUN, and their apparent risings and settings were caused purely by the Earth's own daily rotation on its axis a very novel idea in 1543. In spite of the novelty, if not outrageousness, of Copernicus's ideas, the learned world felt obliged to consider them seriously. It was a Danish nobleman, Tycho Brahe, however, who realised that exchanges of words would prove nothing one way or the other, and that a massive body of new and original observations was required to test Copernicus's ideas. Between 1572 and 1598, Tycho re-mapped the entire northern heavens from his castle of Uraniborg using geometrical instruments of his own design, and while even this great body of data failed to prove anything conclusively, it none the less had the effect of getting astronomers across Europe into the habit of making original observations instead of relying upon ancient tables when it came to interpreting the cosmos. But it was the Italian, Galileo Galilei, who was the first man to produce fundamental new evidence indicating that the Earth probably rotated around the Sun. Between 1609 and 1611, Galileo made a series of quite spectacular discoveries with the recently invented telescope. He saw craters on the Moon, spots upon the Sun, the phases of Venus, countless thousands of previously unknown stars in the Milky Way, and four bright satellites rotating around the planet Jupiter. Galileo's observations showed conclusively that there were far more bodies in space than the ancient astronomers had believed, and that the planets were not just lights in the sky, but worlds in their own right. In short, Galileo dramatically enlarged mankind's perspective and scale of reference of the universe, and had done this by careful observation with a new type of instrument. Furthermore, when subjecting Tycho Brahe's observations to rigorous mathematical analysis in 1608, the Austrian Johannes Kepler came to realise that the planet Mars not only moved around the Sun, but that it did so in an elliptical orbit. Since time immemorial, astronomers had thought that the circle, in its geometrical perfection, was the only shape through which the planets could move. But in addition to Mars's elliptical orbit, Kepler realised that the planet could not be attached to a transparent sphere, but must move in space as a result of forces which were invisible in themselves but which none the less followed exact mathematical laws. Between them, these four astronomers had challenged ancient ideas by the discovery of new evidence gained by observation and the use of instruments. By the time of Jeremiah Horrocks' birth in 1619, therefore, European astronomers had advanced strong arguments for the rotation of the Earth around the Sun, had abandoned the idea that the planets were attached to transparent spheres, and had come to realise that at least one planet, Mars, moved in an egg-shaped orbit around the Sun, and did so in accordance with exact geometrical laws. Though many English astronomers were familiar with these ideas that came in from abroad, no fundamental discoveries had yet been made here. From the mid-seventeenth century onwards, of course, England was to steal the European lead in astronomy with figures such as Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, John Flamsteed and Edmond Halley, but the man whom everyone came to realise made the first specifically English advances was Jeremiah Horrocks. 4. Horrocks' Astronomical Discoveries From a note surviving from 1635, we know that Jeremiah had read most of the major astronomical treatises of his day and was fully familiar with the European discoveries outlined above. Yet he had already detected their weaknesses, and was suggesting new lines of research by the time that he was seventeen. What especially interested Horrocks was the realisation, from Kepler, that there were no transparent spheres holding up the planets, and that at least Mars moved in an elliptical orbit. Working from Toxteth, he set about applying Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion to the Moon, and from a series of detailed observations, was able to demonstrate that it moved in an elliptical path around the Earth. And just as the Sun occupied one of the two focal points of the elliptical orbit of Mars, so the Earth occupied one of the focal points of the Moon's orbit. In short, Horrocks had shown that Kepler's Laws had a universal application and hoped, given time, that he could demonstrate their application to the other planets as well. He also wrote a treatise on Keplerian astronomy, and came to explore mathematically the properties of the invisible force that made the planets go around the Sun in their elliptical orbits. The eighteen- year-old Jeremiah also realised that not only did this force diminish in intensity as one got further away from the Sun, but that the diminution itself followed a strict mathematical law. This was why Mercury, the nearest planet to the Sun, flew around in 88 days, the Earth, as third out, took 365 1/4 days, while Saturn, at the edge of the solar system, took 30 years. To put it plainly, Jeremiah Horrocks, working with home-made wooden instruments in a Lancashire village and lacking the patronage of a university or a prince, had taken up planetary dynamics where Johannes Kepler (who was Mathematician to the Holy Roman Emperor) had left off. And the contributions which Horrocks made were later acknowledged by Sir Isaac Newton, for they provided the developments which connected the work of the four European astronomers with Newton. Jeremiah's work on the lunar orbit and the geometry of the force that powered the solar system was of great importance to Newton's Theory of Universal Gravitation as published in Principia Mathematica in 1687. Intellectually significant as this work was, it is not the part of Horrocks' achievement for which he is most famous today. This was his prediction and observation of the transit of Venus across the Sun's disk on November 24th 1639, which he made at Much Hoole. 5. The Transit of Venus Ever since his student days in Cambridge, Jeremiah had made independent observations of planetary positions in the sky, and compared them with the numbers published in the astronomical tables. And he found that those tables were frequently wrong when compared against the sky, especially the Tables of the Belgian, Phillip Lansberg. In October 1639, he was not surprised to see that all of the published tables differed from each other as to the exact date, time, and position whereby the planet Venus would pass through Inferior Conjunction. At Inferior Conjunction, Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth, though Jeremiah calculated that when this impending event took place towards the end of November 1639, it would pass directly across the disk of the Sun. Though Kepler had correctly predicted that such a transit would occur in 1631, and that another would occur in 1761, Jeremiah came to realise that one would also occur in 1639. Venus transits are very rare, and occur about 120 years apart. But what Horrocks discovered is that while over a century separates the orbital configurations which produce the appearances, the transits themselves occur not singly, but in a pair, eight years apart. There had been a transit in 1631 (though no one had seen it in Europe because of its occurring when the Sun was below the horizon), and there would be another in 1639. Similarly, the transit of 1761 was followed by another in 1769, and that of 1874 by one in 1882. No transits have occurred during the twentieth century, but the next pair will fall in 2004 and 2012. Horrocks was living at Hoole, probably in Carr House, when he made this discovery, and with less than a month to go, made plans to observe the transit. To make the observation, he set up a simple telescope (for which he says he had paid half-a-crown, or 12 1/2p) so that it could project an image of the Sun inside a carefully graduated circle that was six inches in diameter. The day on which the transit took place was a Sunday, and Jeremiah speaks of 'higher things' that also occupied his time that day. It has been these 'higher things' that gave rise to the speculation that Jeremiah was curate of Hoole, though when one looks at how he spent November 24th 1639, one realises that (in addition to the under-age problem) this could not have been the case. By his own admission, Jeremiah spent between four and five hours of that short wintry Sunday watching at his telescope. The rest of his time would no doubt have been spent at meals, attending church, or perhaps catechising the children of the Stones household. In short, he spent rather more time at his telescope than many devout Christians could have afforded for a 'leisure' activity on a Sunday. And it is very unlikely that a clergyman could have found so much time during the seven or so hours that the Sun would have been clearly visible above the horizon on November 24th (December 6th in the modern calendar), let alone a busy curate! But not until 3.15 p.m., when the Sun was within half an hour of setting, did he see his awaited transit of Venus. After a day of indifferent weather, the Sun broke through into a clear stretch of sky as it approached the horizon, and Jeremiah saw a small, perfectly circular, black dot upon its disk as he projected the solar image through his telescope on to his graduated circle. During the thirty minutes of sunlight that remained, he made three accurate measurements, as the black dot of Venus moved across the Sun's face. That half-hour was one of the most momentous in British astronomy. From the transit observations, he was able to measure the angular size of the planet Venus, calculate the beginning and ending times of the transit, and further calculate the planet's orbital velocity. But more important, he was able to derive important facts about the orbit of Venus by relating the geometry of its position on the Sun's disk to the much better known apparent motion of the Sun itself. Seventeenth-century astronomers knew more, mathematically speaking, about the annual orbit of the Sun through the sky than they did about the path of any of the planets. By knowing exactly where Venus was, with relation to the Sun, at 3.45 p.m. on November 24th 1639, Horrocks was able to make considerable advances in our knowledge of planetary motion. Over the following few weeks, after Venus had passed across the Sun and become a brilliant morning star in the eastern sky before dawn, Jeremiah continued to measure its exact angle of separation from the Sun. It was his intention to prove that Venus, like Mars and the Moon, moved in an elliptical orbit that followed Kepler's Laws. This is why Horrocks' work on the transit of Venus was of such significance, for it was far more than a lucky observation made by a bright local lad. It was the first major achievement of British astronomical research, and had international repercussions. The scientific conclusions that Jeremiah correctly derived from the observation provided dramatic confirmation of the work of Kepler, Tycho, Galileo and Copernicus. It was in continental Europe, and not in England, moreover, that Horrocks' treatise on the transit of Venus was first published. The eminent Dantzig astronomer, Johannes Hevelius, had somehow obtained a manuscript copy of Horrocks' treatise, and published it at his own expense under the Latin title Venus in sub Sole Visa (Venus in transit across the Sun) in 1662. It was not in London, Oxford, Cambridge or a princely court, therefore, that British astronomy made its debut on to the world stage, but in a remote Lancashire village, at the hand of an obscure twenty-year-old. 6. William Crabtree and William Gascoigne Much of what we know of Jeremiah's ongoing research between 1636 and 1640 comes from the correspondence which he exchanged with the Salford cloth merchant, William Crabtree (1610-1644). The two men were well-read in the new astronomy of continental Europe, and keen to make advances. Both men measured planetary and stellar positions, and it was Crabtree who had provided confirmation of the transit of Venus observation, for he had kept watch with his telescope in Salford and seen the black dot of Venus on the Sun's disk. William Gascoigne (1612-1644) was a country gentleman of Middleton near Leeds, and had received at least part of his education at Oxford. It seems unlikely, however, that Gascoigne and Horrocks ever met, for they only acknowledged an awareness of each other in 1640. It was almost certainly William Crabtree who was the go-between, for Crabtree maintained a correspondence with mathematicians in other parts of England, and had commercial connections in London. There is no evidence to suggest that Gascoigne played any part in the transit of Venus observations, and it is likely that the acquaintance was made after November 1639. Gascoigne's significance lies not so much in observational or theoretical astronomy, however, as in invention, for he clearly possessed an aptitude for practical subjects. It was William Gascoigne who solved the optical problem which had teased astronomers across Europe for 30 years: how to put some sort of cross-wires, or marker point, into the field of view of a telescope so that the geometrical centre of the field could be defined. By inventing such a device, in 1638, Gascoigne made it possible to mount telescopes on the sighting arms of astronomical angle-measuring instruments to obtain much more precise positions for the stars and planets. Gascoigne then came to realise that if an astronomer could have one marker-point in his field of view, then why should he not have two? One marker could remain fixed, and the other could be made to move under the control of a fine- pitched screw. By knowing the full angle encompassed by the telescope's field of view, an observer could enclose an astronomical body, such as the Moon, between the fixed and moveable pointers. He could then use the turns of the screw controlling the moving pointer to work out the fraction of field enclosed by both pointers and thereby measure the Moon's angular diameter with unparalleled accuracy. The instrument came to be known as the micrometer, and was first demonstrated to the Royal Society in 1667 by Robert Hooke. When Horrocks first heard of Gascoigne's device from Crabtree in 1640, he was very desirous to obtain one for himself. He realised that the micrometer would be an ideal instrument with which to measure slight variations in the apparent diameter of the Moon as it approached and receded from the Earth in its elliptical orbit. It is interesting to think that the telescopic sight and micrometer, which were to become such fundamental instruments in astronomical research down to the present day, were also products of the Horrocks circle, and derived from an amateur mechanician and astronomer working in a Yorkshire manor house. 7. Science and Christianity in the Seventeenth Century It is commonly believed that when modern science began in the seventeenth century, its exponents were persecuted by the Church. Yet this presumed hostility between Christianity and science was itself a piece of late-nineteenth-century historical revisionism and owed more to the late Victorian controversy about Darwinism than it did to the Renaissance astronomical revolution. It is popularly assumed that the Church condemned people who believed in Copernicus's theory of the moving Earth that was published in 1543, though in fact it was not until 1616 that the Catholic Establishment showed any official interest in the matter. And that interest, and subsequent condemnation by the Holy Office, came about initially as a result of Galileo's abrasive clashes with the eminent Jesuit astronomer Christopher Schiener. In fact, Galileo, through his love of controversy and fondness of abusive language, crossed two Popes (one of whom, Pope Urban VIII, had been his former patron), several scholarly Cardinals, and most of the Italian university establishment, and this led to his Copernican ideas being formally silenced in 1633. The Catholic Church, up to the time of Galileo, had no official policy about how the physical universe operated, and was willing to leave these esoteric speculations to philosophers unless they compromised points of Christian doctrine. Medieval scholars such as Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Nicholas of Cusa had speculated about the construction of the heavens and the Earth, and received no rebuke. Nicole de Oresme in the fourteenth century had even argued that the movement of the stars was an illusion caused by the rotation of the Earth. And Oresme was a French bishop, as well as a distinguished physicist. The Church also accepted that textual contradictions occurred in the Bible (unlike modern fundamenta1ists), and that certain passages should be read allegorically, and not literally. In fact, the Church had acknowledged for centuries that the study of the physical world could be theologically beneficial to mankind, for its complexity displayed the handiwork of God. But all of this was to be done within the conventions of learned debate, and any Italian Catholic who personally antagonised leading dignitaries of the Church because of their lukewarmness towards modern discoveries could only expect what he received. Though he might have made hackles rise by his ironical tone, Galileo made a valid point when he argued that nature in itself was a book to God's glory, and that the Bible, as a revelation, was intended by God 'to show us how to go to heaven, and not how the heavens go'. And as an English Protestant, Jeremiah Horrocks would have found far fewer restrictions to scientific research than a continental Catholic would have felt after 1633. Quite simply, the Church of England had no policies on science whatsoever, and during the 1630s, the English bishops were more concerned with the theology of the Divine Right of Kings than they were with the shape of the orbit of the Moon. What shines through Jeremiah's writings is a sense of awe and praise for the Deity who could make a universe that was so intricate and so beautiful. One also perceives his sense of privilege at being the first human creature to learn of certain things - such as the shape of the Moon's orbit - or to see the transit of Venus. Horrocks' attitude towards science - as the great revealer of God's design to the human intellect - was shared by the following generations of English scientists who came to form the Royal Society in 1660, and which published his surviving letters and treatises in 1672. John Wallis, who edited Horrocks' Opera Posthuma, was a clerical mathematician who refused a Deanery to remain a professor. The Royal Society's effective founder, the Oxford astronomer John Wilkins, became Bishop of Chester in 1668, and would have come thereby to have spiritual supervision over Much Hoole which was then in the diocese of Chester. Seth Ward moved from an astronomical professorship at Oxford to the Bishopric of Sacrum at Salisbury, while the man who wrote the first History of the Royal Society and its work in 1667, Thomas Sprat, became Bishop of Rochester. The 'father of English chemistry', the Hon. Robert Boyle, was invited by King Charles II to take Holy Orders so that he could receive preferment in the Restoration Church, but refused, arguing that he felt more able to promote the Christian faith if he were not obliged to do so by law. These men represented the intellectual cream of Horrocks' generation, and show how powerfully they unified the investigations of science not only with their Christian faith, but also with the holding of high ecclesiastical office. Had Jeremiah lived into his fifties rather than dying at 22, he could well have been one of their number. 8. Horrocks' Death and Reputation As I pointed out above, we know nothing about Horrocks' death beyond the fact that it took place suddenly, on January 3rd 1641. His friend William Crabtree wrote on the back of a bundle of his letters: 'Mr. Jeremiah Horrocks' letters to me for the years 1638, 1639, 1640 up to the day of his death, very suddenly, on the morning of the 3rd January [1641]; the day before he had arranged to come to me. Thus God puts an end to all worldly affairs. I have lost, alas, my dear Horrocks. Hinc illae lachrimae [thus the tears fall]. Irreparable loss.' Crabtree himself, though nine years older than Horrocks, only lived to the age of 34, making his will on July 19th 1644 and being buried in the precincts of Manchester Collegiate Church, now the Cathedral, on August 1st of the same year. We do not know how he died. William Gascoigne took a Royalist Commission at the outbreak of the Civil War in the summer of 1642 and was soon promoted to Providore for Yorkshire. He then enjoyed the unique distinction of having been reported killed in no less than three subsequent battles, though the Lancashire historian, Christopher Townley of Townley Hall, Burnley, was probably correct in saying that Gascoigne fell at Marston Moor, in 1644. Christopher Townley, after all, was in a good position to know, for he was present at the battle in which so many Lancastrian and Yorkshire gentlemen were killed in the Royalist cause. His elder brother Richard had been amongst them, and the Townleys and the Gascoignes were on friendly terms. It was Christopher Townley, indeed, who rescued most of Horrocks' surviving correspondence in about 1645, when he collected what he could find belonging to the now deceased Horrocks, Crabtree and Gascoigne. And from 1648 onwards, Horrocks' admirers started to visit Townley Hall to see his preserved papers. They included Jeremy Shakerley of Pendle Forest, Lancashire, whose three published works on astronomy between 1649 and 1653 liberally acknowledge 'that Noble Genius, our Worthy Country-Man, Master Jeremy Horrox'. These constitute the first printed acknowledgements to Jeremiah Horrocks. The Royalist mathematician, Sir Jonas Moore, also studied them, and twenty-odd years later, in 1675, he was one of the motivating forces that led to King Charles II founding the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Very appropriately, the Royal Observatory's first director, or Astronomer Royal, the Reverend John Flamsteed, had studied Horrocks' papers at Townley Hall. When Flamsteed published his own magnum opus, the Historia Coelestis Britannica (British Account of the Heavens, 1725), he commenced the catalogue of observations by publishing some hitherto unseen letters and observations of Horrocks' circle, which he considered as the starting-point of serious astronomical research in Britain. From the 1660's onwards, eulogies to Horrocks and his friends came to abound, from Newton in England, Hevelius in Poland, Cassini in France, and from elsewhere. But it was the earnest Victorians who eulogised him most of all, by adoring his undisputed intellectual achievements with a moral character and even a personal appearance that have no grounding in recorded evidence. It was in Victorian England that we first encounter the posthumously ordained Reverend Curate of Hoole. The Reverend Robert Brickel, Rector of Hoole, was tireless in the promotion of Jeremiah, and was said by his friends to be seized with 'Horrocks fever'. But we must also thank Mr. Brickel for securing appropriate memorials to Jeremiah: a plaque in Westminster Abbey, and two stained glass windows and other memorials in St. Michael's Church, Much Hoole. But the greatest romanticization of Horrocks is to be found in Eyre Crowe's painting, in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, which depicts him as an intense, emaciated Puritan, observing the 1639 transit of Venus with an elaborate equatorial telescopic apparatus. William Crabtree fared no better at the hands of Ford Madox Brown, who painted the Salford merchant observing the same transit in one of the twelve historical murals that were commissioned to decorate the Great Hall of Manchester's new Town Hall in about 1880. Crabtree, who was a successful twenty-nine-year-old merchant in 1639, is depicted as a wild-eyed, skeletal septuagenarian observing with a brass telescope of late eighteenth-century design. He is accompanied by an appropriately pre-Raphaelite wife. But we must remember that Horrocks' scientific achievements would have been sufficient to bring distinction to a career that covered forty years rather than a mere half-dozen. And when such outstanding achievement is conjoined with such an absence of personal details, we cannot altogether blame the human imagination for clothing Horrocks, and his friends, in the acceptable social fashions of the day. Yet if we think of Frauenburg in 1543, Copenhagen in 1572, Prague in 1608, and Venice and Florence in 1610 as the places in which modern astronomy was born, then we must not forget Much Hoole in 1639. March 1994 Allan Chapman
Horrockes