George Alcock

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George Alcock
George Eric Deacon Alcock

(1912-08-28)28 August 1912
Died15 December 2000(2000-12-15) (aged 88)
Known forDiscovery of comets and novae

George Eric Deacon Alcock, MBE (28 August 1912 Peterborough, Northamptonshire[1]– 15 December 2000) was an English astronomer. He was one of the most successful visual discoverers of novae and comets.

Initially, his interest in astronomy involved observation of meteors and meteor showers, but in 1953 he decided to start searching for comets and in 1955 began searching for novae. His technique was to memorize the patterns of thousands of stars, so that he would visually recognize any intruder.

In 1959 he discovered comet C/1959 Q1 (Alcock), the first comet discovered in Britain since 1894, and only five days later discovered another, C/1959 Q2 (Alcock). He discovered two more comets in 1963 and 1965. He later discovered his first nova, Nova Delphini 1967 (HR Delphini), which turned out to have an unusual light-curve. He discovered two more novae, LV Vul (in 1968) and V368 Sct (in 1970). He found his fifth and final comet in 1983: C/1983 H1 (IRAS-Araki-Alcock). In 1991 he found the nova V838 Her.

Honors and awards[edit]

Alcock became a Fellow of 3 British societies in 1947: the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Royal Meteorological Society. He won the Jackson-Gwilt Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1963. On 7 February 1979, Queen Elizabeth II conferred on him an MBE. In 1981 he received the International Amateur Achievement Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.[2]

An asteroid, 3174 Alcock is named after him.

He also maintained an active interest in meteorology (the study of weather, unrelated to his interest in meteors).

His achievements were fairly remarkable, and with the modern invention of CCDs and photometry and automated and computerized search programs that make his visual discovery techniques seem entirely quaint and obsolete, it is unlikely that such achievements will ever be repeated.

In 1996, Genesis Publications published a limited edition signed biography, authored by Kay Williams, entitled "Under An English Heaven - The Life of George Alcock".

After his death, a plaque was placed in Peterborough Cathedral in his memory.[3]

Personal life[edit]

In 1936 Alcock met a young lady, Mary Green, through their shared interest in astronomy. They were married 7 June 1941, and moved to the village of Farcet from 1955, in a house they called Antares, where Alcock discovered 5 comets and 5 nova[4], they remained devoted to each other until her death on 25 October 1991.


  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: Births DEC 1912 3b 337 PETERBRO, mmn = Deacon
  2. ^ Hurst, G. M. & Alcock, G. E. D. (April 2001) "Obituary: George Eric Deacon Alcock, 1912-2000". Journal of the British Astronomical Association vol.111 (no.2), pp. 64-66. Bibliographic Code: 2001JBAA..111...64H
  3. ^ [1] Cathedral plaque is unveiled for starman George
  4. ^

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Frank Bateson
Amateur Achievement Award of Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Succeeded by
Ben Mayer