William Peck (astronomer)

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Observatory House, Edinburgh
Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill
The grave of Sir William Peck, Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh

Sir William Peck FRSE FRAS (3 January 1862, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire – 7 March 1925, Edinburgh) was a Scottish astronomer and scientific instrument maker.


He was born in Castle Douglas in Kirkcudbrightshire on 3 January 1862, the son of William Peck. His family moved to Edinburgh in his youth and here he worked in a glue factory in the Gorgie district for Robert Cox. Cox asked him to run a private observatory. From 1883, despite a lack of formal university training, he began lecturing in Astronomy.[1]

He was the director of the Edinburgh City Observatory from 1889 until his death.[2] In the same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Robert Cox, Sir Arthur Mitchell, Alexander Buchan and the 8th Duke of Argyll.[3] From 1893 to 1896 he was involved in the relocation of the Edinburgh Observatory from Calton Hill to Blackford Hill.[4]

In 1898 he founded the Madelvic Motor Carriage Company, one of the world's first factories making electric cars, at the Madelvic Works at Granton, Edinburgh.[5]

He continued to live at Observatory House on Calton Hill in Edinburgh even after the observatory moved to Blackford Hill.[6]

He also belonged to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret occult society founded in the late 1800s. Among the members of the Golden Dawn, there was irish poet William B Yates, actress Florence Farr, Oscar Wilde's wife Cobstance Mary, Bram Stocker and obviously Aleister Crowley.

He was knighted by King George V in 1917.

He died at his home in Inverleith Row in Edinburgh on 7 March 1925. He is buried in Warriston Cemetery in the upper section, on the north side of the main east-west path.


In 1889 he married Christina Thomson (1865-1922).


  • The handy star map (1880)
  • The constellations and how to find them (1887)
  • Popular Handbook and Atlas of Astronomy (1890)
  • The observer's atlas of the heavens (1898)
  • The Southern Hemisphere constellations and how to find them (1911)
  • An Introduction to the Celestial Sphere. Volume I The Topography and Mythology of the Star Groups (1919)


  1. ^ http://www.scottish-places.info/people/famousfirst1020.html
  2. ^ Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002: Biographical Index (PDF). II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  3. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  4. ^ http://adsbit.harvard.edu//full/1926MNRAS..86..186./0000187.000.html
  5. ^ http://www.scottish-places.info/people/famousfirst1020.html
  6. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1911