Richard Sheepshanks

Richard Sheepshanks

Richard Sheepshanks (born 30 July 1794 in Leeds - died 4 August 1855) was an English astronomer.

He graduated from Trinity College of Cambridge University in 1816. He was called to the bar in 1824 and took orders in Church of England in 1825, but did not practice either profession because the death of his father, a textile manufacturer, left him with sufficient wealth to pursue his scientific interests.

He served as editor of "Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society" and greatly improved their content.

In 1832, he got involved in the lawsuit of Edward Troughton against Sir James South, in which Troughton demanded payment for an equatorial mounting that he had supplied to South, but which South claimed to be defective. Sheepshanks informally served as legal counsel to Troughton; South's legal counsel was Drinkwater Bethune. Troughton prevailed in the lawsuit.

In 1833, he recommended withholding publication of an early edition of Stephen Groombridge's star catalogue, which was being published posthumously, after discovering the edition contained errors. A final corrected edition was later published in 1838 under the auspices of George Biddell Airy.

In his later career he worked on establishing a standard of length for imperial measures.

He was deeply skeptical of the work of Charles Babbage and of his ability to deliver a working Difference Engine or Analytical Engine. The two men publicly attacked each other.

He suffered a stroke ("apoplexy") on 29 July 1855 and he died on 4 August. There is a memorial notice at St. John's Church, Bilton in Harrogate [] , however he is buried at Trinity College.


After his death, Richard's sister Anne Sheepshanks (1789–1876) contributed a legacy to the observatory at Cambridge. This fund was used to purchase a modern photographic telescope at the observatory, which was named in her honor. The Sheepshanks crater on the Moon is also named after her, one of the few lunar craters with a female eponym.

External links

* [ Information on Sheepshanks's grave]
* [ MNRAS 16 (1856) 90, obituary]

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