Thomas Street

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This article is about an English astronomer. For the street in central Dublin, Ireland, see Thomas Street, Dublin. For the street in central Perth, Australia, see Thomas Street, Perth.

Thomas Street (also spelled Streete) (1621–1689) was an English astronomer. In 1661, he published Astronomia Carolina, a new theorie of Coelestial Motions. An Appendix to Astronomia Carolina (including tables) followed in 1664.

Astronomia Carolina was widely read, and used by students who later became very notable in their own right, e.g. by Isaac Newton[1] and by John Flamsteed.[2] Streete's tables in Astronomia Carolina attained some reputation for accuracy: for example, Flamsteed once referred to them as "the exactest tables in being, the Caroline",[3] and Astronomia Carolina itself appeared in second and third editions as late as 1710 and 1716.[4]

1674 saw the appearance of Street's Description and Use of the Planetary Systeme together with Easie Tables, as well as in the same year Tables of Projection, for artillery, accompanying a work on gunnery by Robert Anderson.

A follower of Johannes Kepler, Street argued, like Kepler, that Earth's rate of daily rotation is not uniform. He argued that the rotation increased as it approached the Sun.[5]

Thomas Streete the astronomer has sometimes been confused with another Thomas Street, a judge, who lived from 1626 to 1696.

Additional information about Thomas Streete the astronomer is contained in "Brief Lives" by his contemporary John Aubrey.[6] According to John Aubrey, Streete was born in Ireland, at Castle Lyons, 5 March 1621, and:

"He dyed in Chanon-row (vulgarly Channel-rowe) at Westminster, the 17th August, 1689, and is buried in the church yard of the new chapell there." ...

About Streete's personality, Aubrey wrote that

"He was of a rough and cholerique disposition. Discoursing with Prince Rupert, his highnesse affirmed something that was not according to art; sayd Mr. Street, 'whoever affirmes that is no mathematician.' So they would point at him afterwards at court and say, 'There's the man that huff't prince Rupert.'" ... "He hath left with his widowe (who lives in Warwick lane ...) an absolute piece of Trigonometrie, plain and spherical, in MS., more perfect than ever was yet donne, and more clear and demonstrated." ... "He was one of Mr. Ashmole's clarkes in the Excise office, which was his chiefest lively-hood."

Cajori quotes an attribution to Street of an invention, an improved back-staff, a modification of an earlier instrument by Robert Hooke, adding to the device two planes and a small mirror (citing Saverien's article on the 'quartier anglois' (back-staff), in Dictionnaire universel de mathematique, Paris, 1753).

Cajori listed among Streete's publications a number of pamphlets, including one that showed how Streete engaged in a vigorous polemic with Vincent Wing, his astronomical competitor, who had published a criticism of Streete's own Astronomia Carolina.[7]

Edmond Halley (1656–1742), Streete's much younger contemporary, wrote of Streete as his 'good friend' (according to Halley's biographer), and said that they had observed a lunar eclipse together.[8] Halley wrote an appendix to the 1710 edition of Street's Astronomia Carolina, and Cajori (op.cit.) said that Halley actually 'brought out' that 1710 edition.

The crater Street on the Moon is named after him.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ See e.g. D. T. Whiteside, Before the Principia, in Journal for the History of Astronomy 1 (1970), 5-17, at p.7.
  2. ^ According to Encyclopædia Britannica, 1823 version, article on John Flamsteed, at p.666, it was from Astronomia Carolina that Flamsteed learned how to calculate eclipses and planetary positions.
  3. ^ Letter from J Flamsteed to Lord Brouncker (President of the Royal Society), on 24 November 1669: see Correspondence of John Flamsteed, vol. 1, ed. E.G. Forbes et al., 1997, letter #5 at pages 12-26.
  4. ^ For copies in British Library, see online Catalogue.
  5. ^ http://web.clas.ufl.edu/users/rhatch/pages/03-Sci-Rev/SCI-REV-Home/resource-ref-read/major-individuals/huygens/08sr-h1.htm
  6. ^ Quoted by Florian Cajori, in Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (Dec. 1903) at pages 155-7.
  7. ^ "Examen Examinatum, or Wing's Examination of Astronomia Carolina examined ... with a Castigation of the Envy and Ignorance of Vincent Wing, by Thomas Streete, Student in Astronomy and Mathematics ... London, 1667".
  8. ^ Alan Cook, "Edmond Halley", Oxford, 1998, at p.66.