William Frederick Denning

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William Frederick Denning
William Denning celebrated in Punch magazine Vol. 102, 9 April 1892, on the occasion of The Times newspaper commenting on Denning's discovery of a small faint comet on Friday 18 March 1892 at Bishopston, Bristol
Born(1848-11-25)25 November 1848
Died9 June 1931(1931-06-09) (aged 82)
Bristol, England

William Frederick Denning (25 November 1848 – 9 June 1931) was a British amateur astronomer who achieved considerable success without formal scientific training.[1][2][3] He is known for his catalogues of meteor radiants, observations of Jupiter's red spot, and for the discovery of five comets.[4] Outside astronomy, as a young man, Denning showed prowess at cricket to the extent W G Grace invited him to play for Gloucestershire. However Denning's retiring nature made him decline the offer.[1]


Denning devoted a great deal of time to searching for comets, and discovered five of them, including the periodic comet 72P/Denning–Fujikawa and the lost comet D/1894 F1. The latter was the last comet discovered on British soil until the discoveries of George Alcock.

Denning also studied meteors and novae, discovering Nova Cygni 1920 (V476 Cyg). From 1869 Denning held the combined post of secretary and treasurer of the short-lived Observing Astronomical Society.[5] Denning was elected to the Royal Astronomical Society on 8 June 1877.[6] He was also elected to the British Astronomical Association on 26 October 1898.[7] Subsequently, directed its Comet (1891–1893) and Meteor (1899–1900) Sections.[8] He won the Prix Valz of the French Academy of Sciences for 1895.[9]

During his life, Denning published 1179 articles[10] in prominent scientific journals including Nature, The Observatory, Astronomische Nachrichten, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Journal des Observateurs, and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.[11]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Obituary Notice: Denning, William Frederick". MNRAS. 92: 248–250. February 1932. Bibcode:1932MNRAS..92..248.. doi:10.1093/mnras/92.4.248.
  2. ^ a b Addison, Henry Robert; Oakes, Charles Henry; Lawson, William John; Sladen, Douglas Brooke Wheelton (1907). "DENNING, William F." Who's Who. 59: 470.
  3. ^ Hockey, Thomas (2009). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  4. ^ a b "(71885) Denning = 2000 WD". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  5. ^ "1869AReg....7..165. Page 165". Astronomical Register. 7: 165. 1869. Bibcode:1869AReg....7..165. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  6. ^ Dreyer, J. L. E. (1877). "1877MNRAS..37..427D Page 427". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 37: 427. Bibcode:1877MNRAS..37..427D. doi:10.1093/mnras/37.8.427. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  7. ^ "1898JBAA....9...28. Page 28". Journal of the British Astronomical Association. 9: 28. 1898. Bibcode:1898JBAA....9...28. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  8. ^ Kelly, Howard L.; Gale, W. F.; Evershed, M. A.; Porthouse, William; Ryves, P. M.; Peek, B. M.; Davidson, M.; Prentice, J. P. M.; Kellaway, G. F.; Housman, W. B.; Porter, J. G.; Reade, Vera (1947). "The British Astronomical Association: The First Fifty Years" (PDF). Memoirs of the British Astronomical Association. 36: 55. Bibcode:1947MmBAA..36C..55K.
  9. ^ "Prix Valz". Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences. Vol. Tomes XCII à CXXI, 3 Janvier 1881 à 30 Décembre 1895. Paris: Gauthier-Villars. 1900. pp. 1574–1575.
  10. ^ Beech, Martin (February 1998). "W. F. Denning—The Doyen of Amateur Astronomers". WGN: Journal of the International Meteor Organization. 26 (1): 19–24. Bibcode:1998JIMO...26...19B. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  11. ^ Accomazzi, Alberto; Kurtz, Michael J.; Murray, Stephen S. (2016). "SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System". Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Awards of the Comet-Medal of the ASP (1890-1896)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. San Francisco. 9: 99. 1897. JSTOR 40671005.
  13. ^ Denning, W. F. (September 1890). "Comet c, 1890". The Observatory. 13 (166): 295. Bibcode:1890Obs....13..295F.
  14. ^ "1932Obs....55...14. Page 14". The Observatory. 55: 14. 1932. Bibcode:1932Obs....55...14. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  15. ^ "Lunar crater Denning". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.
  16. ^ "Martian crater Denning". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.
  17. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  • Phil Williams (July 2015) "William Frederick Denning F.R.A.S." Liverpool Astronomical Society Newsletter (July 2015, pp,4–6)

External links[edit]