Robert T. A. Innes
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Robert Thorburn Ayton Innes (10 November 1861 – 13 March 1933) was a Scottish-South African astronomer best known for discovering Proxima Centauri in 1915, and numerous binary stars. He was also the first astronomer to have seen the Great January Comet of 1910, on 12 January. He was the founding director of a meteorological station in Johannesburg, which he converted to an astronomical observatory and renamed to Union Observatory. He was the first Union Astronomer. Innes House, designed by Herbert Baker, built as his residence at the observatory, today houses the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers.
A self-taught astronomer, he went to Australia at an early age and made his living as a wine merchant in Sydney, where, using a home made 12-inch reflecting telescope, he discovered several double stars new to astronomy. He also published some papers on perturbations in Mars' and Venus' orbits.
Despite having had no formal training in astronomy, he was invited to the Cape Observatory by the astronomer royal Sir David Gill in 1894 and appointed in 1896. In 1903 he took up the position of Director of the new Meteorological Observatory in Johannesburg. He acquired the observatory's first telescope, a 9-inch refractor, in 1906, and was appointed first Union Astronomer in 1912. A 26-inch refractor and the Franklin Adams camera were added. The University of Leyden awarded him an honoris causa doctorate in 1923. He retired in 1927. He died on 13 March 1933.
Innes tirelessly campaigned for foreign investment in South Africa's astronomy infrastructure - he believed that its clear skies were ideally suited for astronomical observation. He discovered some 1600 new pairs of double stars, had a great interest in stellar proper motions and devoted much time to the study of Jupiter's satellites.
He discovered Innes star.
The following features have been named after him:
- Astronomische Nachrichten, volume 249, p.51 1933 but says he discovered Proxima Centauri in 1917
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