Broughton Spout, Broughton,
near Manchester, England
|Died||1644 (aged 34)
|Known for||Transit of Venus|
William Crabtree (1610–1644) was an astronomer, mathematician, and merchant from Broughton, then a township near Manchester, now a part of Salford, Greater Manchester, England. He was one of only two people to observe and record the first predicted transit of Venus in 1639 .
Life and work
Crabtree was born in 1610 in the hamlet of Broughton Spout, on the east bank of the River Irwell, near "The Priory" in Broughton and was educated at the Manchester Grammar School. He married into a wealthy family and worked as a merchant in Manchester.
His great interest was astronomy; in his spare time he carefully measured the movements of the planets and undertook precise astronomical calculations. He rewrote and improved the accuracy of the Rudolphine Tables of Planetary Positions.
Crabtree corresponded with Jeremiah Horrocks, another enthusiastic amateur astronomer, from 1636. A group of astronomers from north England, including William Gascoigne, formed around them; they communicated primarily by mail correspondence. They were Britain's first followers of the astronomy of Johannes Kepler; the "Nos Keplari", as the group called themselves, became the first individuals to gain a realistic notion of the size of the solar system. Crabtree and Horrocks were the first astronomers to observe, plot, and record the transit of Venus across the Sun. This transit, predicted by Horrocks, occurred on 24 November 1639 Julian calendar (4 December 1639 Gregorian calendar). Horrocks and Crabtree together predicted the next occurrence of the Venus transit for 8 June 2004.[verification needed]
The two correspondents recorded the 1639 event separately in their own homes; it is not known whether they ever met in person, but Crabtree's calculations were crucial in allowing Horrocks to estimate the size of Venus and the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Unfortunately, Horrocks died young, early in 1641—tradition holds the day before he and Crabtree had scheduled a meeting. Crabtree also died young and was buried within the precincts of the Manchester Collegiate Church, not far from Manchester Grammar School, the site of his early education.
The recording of the Venus transit of 1639 is now seen by many as the birth of modern astronomy in Britain, and indeed, John Flamsteed later said that the work of Horrocks and his north country colleagues laid much of the foundation upon which his work as Astronomer Royal would stand.
On 9 June 2004, the day after the next transit occurred as predicted by Horrocks, a commemorative street nameplate in memory of William Crabtree was unveiled at the junction of Lower Broughton Road and Priory Grove which marks the northern boundary of Crabtree Croft. A commemorative plaque was unveiled a few yards away in December 2005, at Ivy Cottage 388-90 Lower Broughton Road, which is thought most likely to have been the home of Crabtree and his family at the time when he was collaborating with Horrocks.
The second transit of the pair occurred on 5 and 6 June 2012 and celebration was held at Ivy cottage, when NASA broadcast a recreation of the observation, inspired by the Ford Madox Brown mural, to millions of viewers and projected a live stream of the transit from Hawaii on the side of the house.
Crabtree is also celebrated in Manchester Town Hall, where a romanticised depiction of his recording of the transit can be seen in a mural (pictured) entitled Crabtree watching the transit of Venus AD 1639 painted by the artist Ford Madox Brown in 1903.
- Broughton and Cheetham Hill in Victorian times by Monty Dobkin ISBN 1-85216-131-0 pages 48&52
- Chapman, Allan (2005). "Jeremiah Horrocks, William Crabtree, and the Lancashire observations of the transit of Venus of 1639". Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 2004. doi:10.1017/S1743921305001225.
- Retrieved 2007-11-13
- Chapman, Allan (2004). "Horrocks, Crabtree and the 1639 transit of Venus". Astronomy and Geophysics 45 (5): 5.26. doi:10.1046/j.1468-4004.2003.45526.x.]
- [dead link]
- Chapman, Allan; Britain), Institute of Physics (Great (2005). England's Leonardo: Robert Hooke and the Seventeenth-Century Scientific Revolution. ISBN 978-0-7503-0987-5.
- Salford.go.uk local history
- [dead link]
- Osuh, Chris (June 6, 2012). "Salford marks Transit of Venus from home of man who first saw it in 1639 - video". Manchester Evening News (MEN Media). Retrieved 13 June 2012.
- Chapman, Allan, '"William Crabtree 1610–1644: Manchester's First Mathematician"', Allan Chapman. Manchester Statistical Society, 1996. ISBN 0-85336-132-0..
- Kollerstrom, Nicholas (2005). "William Crabtree's Venus transit observation". Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 2004. doi:10.1017/S1743921305001249.
- Chasing Venus, Observing the Transits of Venus Smithsonian Institution Libraries
- Manchester Science and Discovery including William Crabtree biography
- William Crabtree, Venus genius
- William Crabtree's Venus Transit Observation
- Horrocks and the Dawn of British Astronomy
- Transits of Venus, History results and Legacy