Stephen Joseph Perry

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Stephen Joseph Perry

Stephen Joseph Perry (born in London, 26 August, 1833; d. 27 December 1889) was an English Jesuit, known as a participant in scientific expeditions.


He belonged to a well-known Catholic family. His schooling was first at Gifford Hall, and then at the Benedictine College, Douai, where he proceeded to Rome to study for the priesthood. Having resolved to enter the Society of Jesus, he entered the novitiate (1853-5) first at Hodder, and then at Beaumont Lodge, after which he pursued his studies at St. Acheul, near Amiens, and at Stonyhurst College. In consequence of his marked bent for mathematics, he was sent to attend the lectures of Augustus De Morgan, in London, and those of Bertrand, Liouville, Delaunay, Cauchy, and Serret, in Paris. In the autumn of 1860 he was recalled to Stonyhurst to teach physics and mathematics, likewise taking charge of the observatory.

In 1863 he commenced his theological studies at St. Beuno's[disambiguation needed], N. Wales, and was ordained in 1866. He resumed his former duties at Stonyhurst, which during the rest of his life were uninterrupted, save by special scientific engagements.

Scientific work[edit]

In company with Father Walter Sidgreaves, he made magnetic surveys, in 1868 of western France, in 1869 of eastern France, and in 1871 of Belgium. In 1870 he was in charge of a government expedition to observe a solar eclipse at Cadiz; at Carriacou (West Indies) in 1886; in Moscow in 1887; and at the Îles du Salut in 1889, on which journey he died.

In 1874 he headed a party similarly sent to Kerguelen in the South Indian Ocean, to observe a transit of Venus. He took a series of observations to determine the absolute longitude of the place, and others for the magnetic elements, at Kerguelen, the Cape, Bombay, Aden, Port Said, Malta, Palermo, Rome, Naples, Florence, and Moncalieri. He likewise drew up a Blue-book on the climate of "The Isle of Desolation", as Kerguelen was called by Captain Cook.

In 1882 he went again with Sidgreaves to observe a similar transit in Madagascar,[1] and he again took advantage of the occasion for magnetic purposes. In 1874 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.

At Stonyhurst, while he greatly developed the meteorological work of the observatory, and in the province of astronomy made frequent observations of Jupiter's satellites, stellar occultations, comets, and meteorites, it was in the department of solar physics that he specially laboured, paying particular attention to sun spots and faculae. For observation in illustration of these an ingenious method was devised and patiently pursued.

Father Perry was much in request as a lecturer. He died on an eclipse expedition. The observation on this occasion was successful, and Father Perry, though already ill, managed to perform his part without interruption. As soon as it was over, however, he became alarmingly worse, and having gotten on board HMS Comus, which had been detained for the service, he died at sea five days later, 27 December 1889. He was buried in the Catholic cemetery at Georgetown, Demerara.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Transit of Venus: historical observations - work in progress
  2. ^ Turner, H.H. (14 March 1890). "Report of the Eclipse Committee". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (Royal Astronomical Society) 50: 265 et seq. Bibcode:1890MNRAS..50..265T.