Francis Wollaston (astronomer)

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Francis Wollaston
Born (1731-11-23)23 November 1731
Died 31 October 1815(1815-10-31) (aged 83)
Nationality English
Fields astronomy

Francis Wollaston (23 November 1731, London – 31 October 1815) was an English priest and astronomer. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1769.


Wollaston was the son of Francis Wollaston (1694–1774) and his wife Mary Fauquier. He was educated privately and at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he graduated LL.B. in 1754.[1] Though admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1750, Wollaston never entered the bar, but became a clergyman. Ordained deacon in 1754 and priest in 1755, he became Rector of Dengie in 1758. From 1761 to 1769 he was Rector and Vicar of East Dereham, and from 1769 to 1815 Rector of Chislehurst.[1]

Wollaston wrote a rare privately printed autobiography The Secret History of a Private Man. In it, he explains that his pursuit of astronomy was intended to separate him at a "distance from the misrepresentations of narrow minded biggots." He had a private observatory with a triplet telescope by Peter Dollond. He was buried at Chislehurst.[1]

He achieved some distinction as an astronomer, becoming a member of the Royal Society in 1769 and later serving on its council. He also produced a catalogue of stars and nebulae in 1789, which was used by many including his friend William Herschel. [2]


Wollaston was suspected of unorthodox beliefs, perhaps Unitarianism, a denial of the Trinity. His actual belief, which he kept secret, was much more distinctive. It was that "the Archangel Michael had created humankind and was subsequently incarnated as Jesus". [3]


He married Althea Hyde, daughter of John Hyde, in 1758 and they had several children:

  • Mary Hyde Wollaston(1760–1843) married, in 1803, William Panchen, vicar of St Mary and St Benedict, Huntingdon
  • Althea Hyde Wollaston (1760–1785) married Thomas Heberden (1754–1843), Canon of Exeter cathedral
  • Francis John Hyde Wollaston (1762–1823)
  • Charlotte Hyde Wollaston (1763–1835)
  • Katherine Hyde Wollaston (1764–1844), conchologist
  • George Hyde Wollaston (1765–1841)
  • Charles Hyde Wollaston (1772–1850)
  • Louisa Hyde Wollaston (1771–1772)
  • Frederick Hyde Wollaston (1770–1839? went to America in 1796)
  • Anna Hyde Wollaston (1769–1828) unmarried
  • Henrietta Hyde Wollaston(1767–1840)
  • William Hyde Wollaston (1766 -1828) physiologist, Chemist, and physicist
  • Henry Hyde Wollaston (1774) died in infancy
  • Amelia Hyde Wollaston (1775–1860)
  • Henry Septimus Hyde Wollaston (1776–1867)
  • Sophia Hyde Wollaston (1777–1810), unmarried
  • Louisa Decima Hyde Wollaston (1778–1854) married James Leonard Jackson, a priest from Dorsetshire
  • unknown Child
  • unknown Child


  1. ^ a b c "Wollaston, Francis (WLSN748F)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ Heavenly Heresies – the Reverend Francis Wollaston. Astronomy Now, October 2012, page 16
  3. ^ Heavenly Heresies – the Reverend Francis Wollaston. Astronomy Now, October 2012, page 16
  • Clifford J. Cunningham, The First Asteroid, 2001

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