Harold Spencer Jones

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Sir Harold Spencer Jones
Born (1890-03-29)29 March 1890
Kensington, London, England
Died 3 November 1960(1960-11-03) (aged 70)
Citizenship United Kingdom
Fields Astronomy

Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope
Alma mater

Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith, London

Jesus College, Cambridge
Known for Astronomer Royal
Quote: "Space travel is bunk"

Sir Harold Spencer Jones KBE FRS[1] (29 March 1890 Kensington, London – 3 November 1960)[2] was an English astronomer.[3][4][5][6] Although born "Jones", his surname became "Spencer Jones".[4]


Spencer Jones was educated at Latymer Upper School, where he obtained a scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge. He graduated there in 1911, and became a Fellow of the college.[7] In 1913 he became Chief Assistant at the Royal Greenwich Observatory. In 1933 he became Astronomer Royal. He was president of the International Astronomical Union from 1945 to 1948.

He determined the solar parallax from observations of 433 Eros during its close approach in 1930–1931.

Spencer Jones's successor as Astronomer Royal was Richard Woolley, who on taking up the position in 1956 responded to a question from the press by saying "Space travel is utter bilge".[8] Similarly, it is often stated that Spencer Jones himself had a strong disbelief in the practicalities of space flight, and that he famously said "space travel is bunk" only two weeks before the Sputnik launch in October 1957. However, there is no evidence that he did in fact say this, then or at any other time.[citation needed].

Honours and awards[edit]


Named after him[edit]


In 1944 Spencer Jones was invited to deliver the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture on Astronomy in our Daily Life.


  1. ^ Woolley, R. V. D. R. (1961). "Harold Spencer Jones. 1890-1960". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 7: 136–126. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1961.0011.  edit
  2. ^ GRO Register of Births: JUN 1890 1a 111 KENSINGTON - Harold Spencer Jones (forenames = Harold Spencer, surname = Jones)
  3. ^ Sadler, Donald (1963). "Obituary, Harold Spencer Jones". Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 4 (1): 113–125. Bibcode:1963QJRAS...4..113. Bibl code:1963QJRAS...4..113. 
  4. ^ a b Smart, W.M. (June 1961). "Sir Harold Spencer Jones, 1890-1960". Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada 55 (3): 117. Bibcode:1961JRASC..55..117S. Bibl code:1961JRASC..55..117S. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  5. ^ "Obituary, Sir Harold Spencer Jones". Monthly Notes of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa 19 (11): 146–149. 30 November 1960. Bibcode:1960MNSSA..19..146. Bibl code:1960MNSSA..19..146. 
  6. ^ "Sir Harold Spencer Jones, K.B.E.". The Observatory 76: 15–16. February 1956. Bibcode:1956Obs....76...15J. 
  7. ^ "Harold Spencer Jones - JSTOR". jstor.org. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Morgan, C. and Langford D.: Facts and Fallacies, Webb & Bower, 1981

Further reading[edit]

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