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Written by David Singmaster ( ). Links to relevant external websites are being added occasionally to this gazetteer but the BSHM has no control over the availability or contents of these links. Please inform the BSHM Webster ( of any broken links.

[When the gazetteer was edited for serial publication in the BSHM Newsletter, references were omitted since the bibliography was too substantial to be included. Publication on the web permits references to be included for material now being added to the website, but they are still absent from material originally prepared for the Newsletter - TM, August 2002]

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Barnard Castle, Co. Durham

The Bowes Museum contains the automaton silver 'swan as large as life' by James Cox, c.1770. It is still working--I saw it on a TV show in summer 1994 --and is certainly one of the finest automata ever made.

Barrow-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire

John Harrison (1693-1776), later the chronometer maker, moved here (a bit south of Hull) at age four. There is a portrait of him in Holy Trinity Church, and a sundial by his brother James in the churchyard.


William Herschel (1738-1822) was appointed organist of the Octagon Chapel in Milson Street in 1766. He moved to Bath in Dec 1766. He was rather more than an organist--at his introductory concert on 1 Jan 1767, before the organ was complete, he performed a violin concerto, an oboe concerto and a harpsichord sonata, all of his own composition! He also directed the choir and they gave performances of the Messiah at the inauguration of the organ in Oct 1767--William performed one of his organ concertos between the second and third parts. He also sang tenor solos in various oratorios and taught the guitar. He was a major figure in the active musical life of Bath, as teacher, performer, composer and director. He joined the orchestra of the Theatre Royal in 1768 and later directed it. A booklet on his music lists 24 symphonies, 14 concertoes, 44 chamber works, 129 keyboard works and 10 vocal works. [His Sonata in D, Op 4 No 4, for harpsichord obbligato, violin and cello, is recorded by Invocation on Hyperion CDA66698, Enchanting Harmonist: a soirée with the Linleys of Bath (1994) - TM] In Feb 1772, he gave the only recorded performance on the 'Changeable Harpsichord' developed by Robert Smith, late Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and founder of the Smith's Prizes. In 1772, William and his brother were at 7 New King Street and their sister Caroline Herschel came to study singing. By 1776, she was performing and in 1778, she was soloist in the Messiah. She later become William's assistant and a notable astronomer in her own right. William began studying astronomy seriously in 1773, building his own telescopes because he could not afford to buy them--his brother was a good mechanic and helped build the telescopes. On 4 Mar 1774 he had a good 5 foot Newtonian telescope working. In the summer, the Herschels moved to a house in Rivers Street. In 1776, William resigned from the Octagon Chapel. In 1779, he composed his most popular piece, 'Favourite Echo Catch', and the next year published his first astronomical papers. In Mar 1781, the Herschels moved to 19 New King Street and on the evening of 13 Mar 1781, he discovered Uranus with a 7 foot telescope magnifying 227 times, though he initially thought it was a comet. Sadly, Caroline was not present--she was still packing up at the previous house. William was appointed Royal Astronomer to George III in 1782, at a salary of 200 per year. He and Caroline gave a farewell performance at St. Margaret's Chapel on Whit Sunday, 19 May 1782, and then they moved to Datchet, near Windsor, in late July 1782. There is a Herschel House and Museum at 19 New King Street, Bath. In 1884, there was a proposal to erect a memorial window in the Octagon Chapel, but I don't know if it was ever done.

Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) is buried in the porch of the Abbey Church, Bath.

A descendent of John Napier, General Sir Charles James Napier (1782-1853), the conqueror of Sind, lived at 9 Henrietta Street.

Frank Morley taught at Bath College for three years in the early 1880s before emigrating to the USA.


William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) was born in 1824 opposite the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (or Royal Academy of Belfast), where his father was a master. Both Thomson and Joseph Larmor (1857-1942) attended this school. The Thomsons moved to Glasgow in 1832 when the father was appointed Professor of Mathematics there. There is a statue of Kelvin in the Botanic Gardens beside the University.

P. G. Tait (1831-1901) was professor of mathematics at Queen's College, Belfast (now the University) from 1854-1860, before moving back to Scotland.

Joseph Larmor was a student to 1877 before going to Cambridge.

The Belfast Medical Institute has a good statue of Galileo, based on the death mask.

Ben Nevis, nr Fort William

The highest mountain in Scotland. C. T. R. Wilson (1869-1959) spent some weeks at the meteorological observatory at the top in September 1894 and observed the optical phenomena, especially the glory. His attempts to reproduce these phenomena inspired him to create artificial clouds and the cloud chamber in 1911.

Benson, Oxfordshire

in 1919, Lewis Fry Richardson joined the upper-atmosphere research group of the Meteorological Office at Benson, hoping to develop numerical weather prediction. When the Meteorological Office was incorporated into the Air Ministry in July 1919 (1920?), his pacifist principles led him to resign. He studied turbulence in the atmosphere and developed his 4/3 power law for separation of objects in a turbulent stream. He adapted Swift to: 'Big whirls have little whirls to feed on their velocity, and little whirls have lesser whirls and so on to viscosity.' His book Weather Prediction by Numerical Process appeared in 1922. His only sample calculation, for a particular six hour period in 1910, was a major failure. Nonetheless he included these results--the phenomenon causing the failure was not explained for another 20 years. He estimated it would take 64,000 human calculators to keep ahead of the weather for the whole earth.

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Benvie, nr Dundee

John (1748-1819) and William (1759-1823) Playfair were born at Benvie. John became professor of mathematics, and later natural philosophy, at Edinburgh, and was well-known as a geologist. William originated the ideas of time series charts and pie charts.

Beverley, Humberside

St. Mary's Church has a carved hare carrying a satchel, said to have inspired the March Hare of Lewis Carroll who visited here.

Bexhill, Sussex

Angelo John Lewis, "Professor Louis Hoffman" (1839-1919), wrote from Manningford, Bolebrooke Road, Bexhill, on 27 Dec 1916 and his widow died at Bexhill shortly after his death, so they may have been living here for some time, though his will refers to his Hastings house. Hoffmann was the leading writer on magic, cards and 'parlour amusements' at the turn of the century and his Puzzles Old and New of 1893 is a major source of information about mathematical recreations.

Birdbrook, Essex

Alfred Young, of Young tableau, was rector here for many years and there is a memorial to him in the church.


At the University of Birmingham, the mathematics building is named after George Neville Watson (1886-1965), who was Mason professor here 1918-1951.

Lancelot Hogben (1895-1975 ) was Mason professor of Zoology 1941-1947 and professor of medical statistics 1947-1961.

Ernest W. Barnes (1874-1953), Bishop of Birmingham from 1924, was born in Birmingham and educated at King Edward's School. At Cambridge, where he taught mathematics from 1902, he became an analyst noted for his work on hypergeometric functions and was Littlewood's supervisor. As a churchman he was controversial because of his modernist and pacifist views. He is commemorated by a relief portrait plaque in Birmingham Cathedral.

The Birmingham (Archaeology?) Museum has a cuneiform table of squares on display in Gallery 32.

The Museum of Science and Industry has a Jacquard loom and some large mechanical music devices.

James Watt (1736-1819) is buried in St. Mary's Church, Handsworth, Birmingham, along with his partner Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) and their engineer, the gas pioneer, William Murdock (1754-1839).

Francis Galton (1822-1911) was born in Birmingham and was a student at King Edward School.

Birr, Co. Offaly

(formerly Parsonstown, King's County), Ireland, the site of Birr Castle, seat of the Parsons family, the Earls of Rosse. This unlikely site was an astronomical centre of the world for 75 years. William Parsons (1800-1867), third Earl of Rosse from 1841, built here several telescopes, including a 72 inch diameter reflecting telescope, the Leviathan, the largest in the world until that at Mount Wilson, California, in 1919. While Lord Oxmantown (his courtesy title as heir apparent to an Earldom), William Parsons developed techniques for casting, grinding and polishing mirrors in the 1830s, training his own workmen. He completed a 36 inch reflecting telescope in 1839. This gave a magnification of 900. Parsons invited several competent observers to use it--one opined that it was better than Herschel's 49 inch telescope. In 1842, Parsons, now the third Earl, cast a 72 inch mirror, weighing over four tons, using three crucibles. This broke during grinding, but it was recast and a second mirror was produced. The mirror was mounted in a 58 foot tube, but there was no way to put this in any kind of universal mounting, so it was mounted between two massive walls and could only view a star for about an hour as it crossed the meridian. The tube was 8 feet in diameter in the middle, tapering to 7 feet at the ends, and was made of inch thick wood with iron rings and strengtheners. The telescope was completed in 1845, but only a few observations could be made before the Famine struck and Rosse devoted most of his efforts to relief for several years, so it was not until 1848 that systematic observations really started. It has often been stated that the telescope was not as good as expected, but this was because the mirror, being outside and uncovered, tarnished quickly and had to be repolished regularly. When not in good repair, vision was indeed not good, but when it was clean and atmospheric disturbance was absent, it certainly was the best telescope in the world, as attested by numerous users. It reached magnifications of 650 on good nights and could see ten million lightyears away. Many of the observations could not be confirmed elsewhere for 50 years. Sadly, it was never adapted for photography, partly because the tracking was not smooth enough for long exposures. Some of the drawings made are quite exquisite. The main work of both the 36 inch and the 72 inch was the observation of clusters and nebulae. The 36 inch indicated that some nebulae might be resolvable into stars and the 72 inch made it clear that many of the nebulae were galaxies and first revealed that some had spiral structure.

A succession of observers were employed over the next 50 years. Robert S. Ball (1840-1913)--later Sir Robert, Astronomer Royal for Ireland--was observer and tutor in 1865-1866. Ralph Copeland, later Astronomer Royal for Scotland, was here in 1871-1874. John Louis Emil Dreyer, compiler of the New General Catalogue of clusters and nebulae in 1888, was here in 1874-1878.

William Parsons had three sons born at Birr. Laurence Parsons (1840-1908), later fourth Earl of Rosse from 1867, took an active interest in astronomy from his teens. Laurence made various improvements to the telescopes, fitting clock drives. His remounting of the 36 inch introduced the fork mounting, rotating head and moving observing platform, now standard ideas. He introduced spectroscopy, confirming Huggins' work on spectra of nebulae. His most notable work was determining the temperature of the moon's surface, obtaining results which were not fully accepted until the middle of the C20. On 17 Sep 1877, Rosse confirmed the existence of Phobos and Deimos, the two dwarf moons of Mars discovered by Asaph Hall the previous month.

The youngest son, Charles Parsons (1854-1931)--later Sir Charles--achieved fame as an engineer, inventor of the steam turbine and creator of Grubb Parsons, telescope makers.

After Laurence's death in 1908, the 72 inch was dismantled and its mirror was sent to the Science Museum in London. The first World War and the Troubles meant that the rest of the structure decayed and most of the wooden parts were demolished in 1925. The 36 inch was reported as nearly intact in 1927, but has vanished. Most of the masonry structure and the tube of the 72 inch remain and there are remains of the forge where casting of mirrors was carried out. A model of the 72 inch telescope, its mirror and some eyepieces are in the Science Museum, London, but the Astronomy Gallery has been closed for some time and these items were not on view in 1993. A museum was being built at Birr Castle in 1971. There is a statue of the third Earl in the town. A 1982 booklet says the tube can be seen between its supporting walls, that there is a tape of Patrick Moore narrating the story of the telescope, and that there is a display area at the base of the Leviathan and an exhibition room, initially commemorating the work of Sir Charles.

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Bletchley, Milton Keynes

Bletchley Park was the site of the British code-breaking establishment, the Government Code & Cypher School, in the Second World War. This has been widely publicised in recent years. Notable mathematicians who worked here include Robin Gandy, Jack Good, M. Hall Jr, Philip Hall, Peter Hilton, G. C. McVitie, Donald Michie, Max Newman (Director in 1942-1945), David Rees, Alan Turing, W.T. Tutte and Shaun Wylie. The chess masters Hugh Alexander and Harry Golombek were also here. Recent proposals to sell off the site and demolish the buildings have led to the formation of the Bletchley Park Trust which is preserving the buildings as a museum and computer park. It is currently open a few days each month - ring 01908-640404. The entrance is at the end of Wilton Ave.

Alan Turing lived at the Crown Inn, Shenley Brook End in 1939-1944. Somewhere near here he buried two silver bars, carefully recording the site with respect to local landmarks. When he returned to recover them, the area had been rebuilt and all his landmarks were gone. Despite several attempts with metal detectors, he never recovered them and no one else is known to have found them. The Crown is now a private house and the area where he buried the bars is a housing estate.

Bognor Regis, Sussex

Lewis Carroll stayed at Wellington House, No. 6 The Steyne, in Aug-Sep 1872.

Boulge, Suffolk

a bit north of Woodbridge, the home of Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883), translator of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat. Rosehips from Omar's tomb were germinated at Kew and planted on Fitzgerald's tomb in St. Michael's Churchyard, Boulge, in 1893. The original plant has died, but its descendents still bloom.

Bournemouth, Dorset

An Alice in Wonderland Maze opened at Merritown Farm, Hurn, near Bournemouth in 1992, designed by Randall Coate and Adrian Fisher.

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Bracknell, Berkshire

the site of the Meteorological Office. In 1972, Prime Minister Edward Heath opened a new wing, to house large computers, named after Lewis Fry Richardson (1881-1953), who worked for the Meteorological Office at Eskdalemuir, Scotland, and Benson (qv) for some years before resigning on principle in 1920 when the Office became part of the Air Ministry. He was the first to suggest the idea of sonar in 1911. He was the first to envisage numerical weather prediction. In 1992, Julian Hunt was appointed Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office. He is a great- nephew of Richardson and an editor of his papers, and also a great-grandson of William Garnett. Mandelbrot initiated the editing of the papers which include the famous posthumous 1961 paper on the length of coastlines and boundaries which is considered the foundation of fractals.

Bridstow, Herefordshire

James Bradley (1693-1762) was rector (?) of Bridstow in 1719-1721, but he probably spent little time here as he also had a living in Pembrokeshire and was chaplain to the Bishop of Hereford. In any case, he was far more interested in astronomy than theology and resigned these posts to become Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford in 1721.

Brighton, Sussex

Peacehaven, a 1920s development to the east of Brighton, is located on the prime meridian, and there was a monument on the cliff edge, but erosion had already come close to it in the 1940s. Is it still there??

In Brighton itself, there is a plaque on the house at the southwest corner of Sussex Square stating that Lewis Carroll stayed here frequently between 1874 and 1887.

The distinctive shiny black bricks used in Patcham Place and the Royal Crescent, Brighton, are called 'mathematical tiles', but I don't know why, and no one else seems to know either. They also occur in Lewes.


George G. Stokes (1819-1903) was a student at Bristol College in 1835-1837. This was a non-sectarian school which closed in 1840.

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac (1902-1984) was born at 15 Monk Road, Bishopston, Bristol. He attended Bishop Road primary school, the secondary school at Merchant Venturers' Technical College and the University of Bristol, where he took degrees in electrical engineering (1921) and mathematics (1923).


Stowe Park, near Buckingham, has a Temple of British Worthies, including busts of Francis Bacon, John Locke & Isaac Newton (by Rysbrack).

Bulverhythe, nr Hastings

The logician and economist William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882) drowned while swimming alone off Bulverhythe.

Burbage, Leicestershire

The birthplace of Roger Cotes (1682-1716).

Burntisland, Fife

Where Mary Somerville (1780-1872) grew up.

Burstow, Surrey

John Flamsteed (1646-1719) was rector of St. Bartholomew's, Burstow, from 1684 to 1719 in order to support himself as Astronomer Royal. He was buried there in the chancel, in an unmarked grave, now lost. There is a memorial plate in the chancel, though one source doesn't mention it--is it there??.

Byers Green, Co. Durham

Thomas Wright (1711-1786) was recently commemorated by a plaque at his house in Byers Green. There is a current appeal to raise funds for an exhibition centre: Thomas Wright Memorial Committee, The Old Vicarage, Witton-le-Ear, Co. Durham, DL14 0AN.

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Written by David Singmaster. Last updated on 28th February 2003 by TM ( Copyright © BSHM and David Singmaster 1998 - 2003. All rights reserved.

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