Notable Early Amateur Astronomers

New Zealand has an illustrious history of distinguished amateurs who have made excellent observations at their home observatories. John Grigg (18381920) was one such early amateur. He was born in Kent, migrated to New Zealand in 1863, established a music shop in Thames and built himself an observatory there in 1884 and became an avid comet-hunter. He was the discoverer or co-discoverer of three comets that bear his name, in 1902,

1903 and 1907, and he was one of the first to undertake astro-photography in New Zealand (Orchiston 2001).

Others followed, taking advantage of the clear unpolluted southern skies and the spirit of do-it-yourself innovation that prevailed in the early colony. Thus Henry Skey (1836-1914) in Otago (Campbell 2001), Thomas King (1858-1916) in Wellington (Seymour 1995), Arthur Atkinson (1833-1902) in Nelson, James Townsend (1815-1894) in Christchurch and Arthur Beverley (1822-1907) in Dunedin were all notable amateurs who equipped their private observatories with small telescopes, and many of these were inspired by the 1882 transit of Venus to take up and further pursue astronomy. The reader is referred to Orchiston's (1998) book Nautical Astronomy in New Zealand for further reference material.

New Zealand even had an accomplished optician and telescope maker in Joseph Ward (1862-1927), who helped to establish the Ward Observatory in Wanganui, and whose telescopes included a 52cm Newtonian reflector (built 1924), which for many years was the largest telescope in New Zealand (Calder 1978, Orchiston 2002).

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