William Henry Smyth

William Henry Smyth (1788–1865) was an English sailor, hydrographer, astronomer and numismatist. He was born at 42 Gt. Peter St, Westminster, London. 

In 1802, at the age of 14, he ran away to sea from life in a succession of London boarding houses, joining a merchant vessel which later was taken over by the Royal Navy. During the Napoleonic wars he served in the Mediterranean, earning the nickname "Mediterranean Smyth" for his survey work - His charts of the Mediterranean were still in use in 1961. During a hydrographic survey in 1817 he met the Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi in Palermo, Sicily, and visited his observatory; this sparked his interest in astronomy.

In 1825, having achieved the rank of Admiral, Smyth effectively retired from the Navy and established a private observatory in Bedford, England, equipped with a 5.9-inch refractor telescope. He used this instrument to observe a variety of deep sky objects over the course of the 1830s, including double stars, star clusters and nebulae and published his observations in 1844. He not only describes what the user of a small telescope will see, but also includes much fascinating astronomical, mythological, and historical lore. Many of these descriptions are especially valuable for the novice and user of small telescopes of a size similar to Smyth's. Having completed his observations, Smyth moved to Cardiff in 1839 to supervise the construction of the Bute Dock. He then moved to Stone near Aylesbury in 1842.

Smyth was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1826 and a lunar mare was named Mare Smythii in his honour..

AOS Naval Non Fiction

Series: n/a
Year  Book  Comment
  The Sailor's Word-book A Complete Dictionary of Nautical Terms from the Napoleonic and Victorian Navies

© 2008-2024 David Hayes (Astrodene)