Frank Watson Dyson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sir Frank Watson Dyson
Frank Watson Dyson.jpg
Born 8 January 1868 (1868-01-08)
Measham, Leicestershire, England
Died 25 May 1939 (1939-05-26) (aged 71)
At sea
Nationality British
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Known for Astronomer Royal
Notable awards Royal Medal (1921)

Sir Frank Watson Dyson, KBE, FRS[1] (8 January 1868 – 25 May 1939) was an English astronomer and Astronomer Royal who is remembered today largely for introducing time signals ("pips") from Greenwich, England, and for the role he played in proving Einstein's theory of general relativity.


Dyson was born in Measham, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, the son of the Rev Watson Dyson, but soon moved to Yorkshire. There he attended Heath Grammar School, Halifax, and subsequently won scholarships to Bradford Grammar School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics and astronomy, being placed Second Wrangler in 1889.[2]

In 1894 he was given the post of Senior Assistant at Greenwich Observatory and worked on the Astrographic Catalogue, which was published in 1905.[3]

He was appointed Astronomer Royal for Scotland from 1905 to 1910, and Astronomer Royal (and Director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory) from 1910 to 1933. In 1928, he introduced in the Observatory a new free-pendulum clock, the most accurate clock available at that time and organised the regular wireless transmission from the GPO wireless station at Rugby of Greenwich Mean Time. He also, in 1924, introduced the distribution of the "six pips" via the BBC. He was for several years President of the British Horological Institute and was awarded their Gold Medal in 1928.[3]

Dyson was noted for his study of solar eclipses and was an authority on the spectrum of the corona and on the chromosphere. He is credited with organising expeditions to observe the 1919 solar eclipse at Brazil and Principe, observations from which confirmed Einstein's theory of the effect of gravity on light.

Dyson died while travelling from Australia to England in 1939 and was buried at sea. He had married Caroline Bisset Best, the daughter of Palemon Best, with whom he had two sons and six daughters.[3]

Honours and awards[edit]

Eclipse photograph from 1919 expedition[4]

Frank Dyson and Freeman Dyson[edit]

Frank Dyson and theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson are not related. However, the latter does credit Sir Frank with sparking his interest in astronomy: because they shared the same last name, Sir Frank's achievements were discussed by Freeman Dyson's family when he was a young boy.[citation needed] Inspired, Dyson's first attempt at writing was a 1931 piece of juvenilia entitled "Sir Phillip Robert's Erolunar Collision" – Sir Philip being a thinly disguised version of Sir Frank.

Selected writings[edit]


  1. ^ a b Eddington, A. S. (1940). "Sir Frank Watson Dyson. 1868-1939". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 3 (8): 159–126. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1940.0015. 
  2. ^ "Dyson, Frank Watson (DY886FW)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ a b c "Obituary: Sir Frank Watson Dyson". Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Dyson, F. W.; Eddington, A. S.; Davidson, C. (1920). "A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun's Gravitational Field, from Observations Made at the Total Eclipse of May 29, 1919". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 220 (571–581): 291. Bibcode:1920RSPTA.220..291D. doi:10.1098/rsta.1920.0009. 

External links[edit]