George Alcock

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This article is about the astronomer. For the association footballer, see George Alcock (footballer).
George Eric Deacon Alcock
Born (1912-08-28)28 August 1912
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, England
Died 15 December 2000(2000-12-15) (aged 88)

George Eric Deacon Alcock (28 August 1912 Peterborough, Cambridgeshire [1]– 15 December 2000) was an English astronomer. He was one of the most successful visual discoverers of novae and comets.

Initially, his interest in astronomy involved observation of meteors and meteor showers, but in 1953 he decided to start searching for comets and in 1955 began searching for novae. His technique was to memorize the patterns of thousands of stars, so that he would visually recognize any intruder.

In 1959 he discovered comet C/1959 Q1 (Alcock), the first comet discovered in Britain since 1894, and only five days later discovered another, C/1959 Q2 (Alcock). He discovered two more comets in 1963 and 1965. He later discovered his first nova, Nova Delphini 1967 (HR Delphini), which turned out to have an unusual light curve. He discovered two more novas, LV Vul (in 1968) and V368 Sct (in 1970). He found his fifth and final comet in 1983: C/1983 H1 (IRAS-Araki-Alcock). In 1991 he found the nova V838 Her.

He was awarded an MBE, and the asteroid 3174 Alcock is named after him.

He also maintained an active interest in meteorology (the study of weather, unrelated to his interest in meteors).

His achievements were fairly remarkable, and with the modern invention of CCDs and photometry and automated and computerized search programs that make his visual discovery techniques seem entirely quaint and obsolete, it is unlikely that such achievements will ever be repeated.

Alcock won the Jackson-Gwilt Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1963 and Amateur Achievement Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1981.[2]

In 1996, Genesis Publications Limited published a limited edition signed biography, authored by Kay Williams, entitled "Under An English Heaven - The Life of George Alcock".

After his death, a plaque was placed in Peterborough Cathedral in his memory.[3]


  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: Births DEC 1912 3b 337 PETERBRO, mmn = Deacon
  2. ^ Hurst, G. M. & Alcock, G. E. D. (April 2001) "Obituary: George Eric Deacon Alcock, 1912-2000". Journal of the British Astronomical Association vol.111 (no.2), p.64-66. Bibliographic Code: 2001JBAA..111...64H
  3. ^ Cathedral plaque is unveiled for starman George

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Frank Bateson
Amateur Achievement Award of Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Succeeded by
Ben Mayer