Person: Plummer, Henry
Henry Plummer was a mathematician and astronomer who for some years was Royal Astronomer of Ireland and Andrews Professor of Astronomy at Trinity College, Dublin. He left Ireland to take up the Professorship of Mathematics at the Military College of Science at Woolwich. He made important contributions to mathematical astronomy.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Henry Plummer was educated in Oxford, attending St Edward's School, Oxford, from 1889 to 1892 when he won a Scholarship at Hertford College.
- Plummer entered Hertford College in 1892, the year his parents moved away from Oxford when William Plummer was appointed as Director of the Liverpool Observatory.
- In 1901 Plummer was appointed as an assistant at the Radcliffe Observatory at Oxford University where Herbert H Turner was the Director.
- Turner was very pleased with his assistant and, in 1907, strongly recommended Plummer for a travelling fellowship to enable him to spend a year as a Research Fellow at the Lick Observatory in California.
- This observatory was run by the University of California and when Plummer was there the director was William Wallace Campbell (1862-1938).
- In 1909 Plummer criticised Karl Pearson's work on variable stars in which Pearson had found a correlation between the range of brightness of a variable star and its maximum brightness.
- Plummer published On correlation and the characters of variable stars, in reply to Professor Karl Pearson (1909) in which he showed that Pearson's correlation did not correspond to a physical relationship.
- We have quoted quite a substantial piece here to show how confident Plummer was and also just how kind he was in showing Pearson's errors.
- In May 1912 Plummer was appointed Royal Astronomer of Ireland and Andrews Professor of Astronomy at Trinity College, Dublin.
- In 1792 letters patent were issued (32 George III., A.D. 1792), in which it is recited that "there shall be for ever hereafter a Professor of Astronomy on the foundation of Dr Andrews, to be called and known by the name of the Royal Astronomer of Ireland." Mr Plummer is, therefore, Royal Astronomer of, not Astronomer Royal for, as some announcements have given the title, and by virtue of his office he is Director of the Observatory at Dunsink.
- Mr Plummer's tastes incline in both directions.
- In 1918, when the war ended, Ireland was hit hard by the Spanish flu pandemic but, far worse as far as Plummer was concerned, was the unrest which eventually led to the establishment of the Irish Free State.
- The Irish War of Independence then broke out and Plummer, who was a gentle, peace-loving man, shut himself up in the Dunsink Observatory, reluctant to even venture into Dublin.
- Plummer wrote a number of books.
- While looking at the books Plummer wrote, we should explain briefly about The Correspondence of Isaac Newton.
- Plummer had agreed to undertake on the editorship of Isaac Newton's correspondence in 1938 but was still working on the project when he died in 1946.
- Four further volumes were published, the seventh in 1978, exactly 40 years after Plummer took on the task.
- The Royal Astronomical Society elected Plummer as their president in 1939 and he served in this role until 1941.
- No one was awarded a medal that year and Plummer spoke on The Development of the Vertical Telescope.
- The Royal Astronomical Society had elected Plummer as a Fellow on 8 December 1899.
- He was also honoured by having the crater Plummer on the Moon named after him.
- After Plummer retired, he moved to 3 Canterbury Terrace, Oxford.
Born 24 October 1875, Oxford, England. Died 30 September 1946, Oxford, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin England
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive