John Lee (astronomer)

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John Lee

John Lee LL.D (28 April 1783 – 25 February 1866), born John Fiott, was an English philanthropist, astronomer, mathematician, antiquarian and barrister.


He was the eldest son of John Fiott and Harriet Lee. His father was involved in the family counting house business and was a failed East India merchant. He was orphaned when young and was brought up by his maternal uncle, William Lee Antonie.


Lee read Mathematics at St John's College, Cambridge between 1802 and 1806, graduating fifth wrangler in his year.[1] He was elected a fellow in 1808. Following his studies from 1807-1815 he travelled extensively in the middle east and Europe as a travelling bachelor. During this time he gained an interest in antiquities.

Personal life[edit]

He took the name Lee in 1816 at the request of his uncle.[1] In 1833 Lee married Cecilia Rutter (23 July 1782 – 1 April 1854). She died in 1854 and was buried in the graveyard of Hartwell Church. In 1855, he married again, this time to Louisa Catherine Heath.

Lee died at Hartwell House. An obituary was published in volume 27 of the monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society the following year.


Lee inherited several properties from William Lee Antonie in 1815. Antonie's will predicated the inheritance on Lee changing his name by royal licence from Fiott. The properties included Colworth House near Sharnbrook in Bedfordshire and Totteridge Park formerly in Hertfordshire.

In 1827, Lee inherited Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire from Reverend Sir George Lee which became his main residence from 1829 until his death.

Scientific work[edit]

On 14 May 1824, Lee was elected as fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and was its president between 1861 and 1863. Lee became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1828 and a Fellow of the Philological Society in 1831. Between 1830 and 1839, Lee built an astronomical observatory in the south-west corner of Hartwell House. Lee helped found the Royal Meteorological Society in 1850 and was its president from 1855-1857.

Lee was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1831 and the first president of the Numismatic Society of London in 1836.[1][2]

In 1863 at the age of 80, he was made a barrister of Gray's Inn and a Q.C. the following year. The lunar crater Lee is named after him.


  1. ^ a b c "Fiott (post Lee), John (FT801J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ "Fellows Details". Royal Society. Retrieved 9 May 2014.