Sir George Biddell Airy

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Sir George Biddell Airy, 1801–92, English astronomer. The son of a poor farmer, he distinguished himself as Senior Wrangler at Cambridge, where he was elected fellow of Trinity College (1824) and appointed professor (1826). As Astronomer Royal and director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory from 1835 to 1881, he organized the efficient and accurate observation of stellar positions. Airy wrote many governmental reports on astronomical and other subjects, published works on celestial mechanics, and made discoveries in theoretical and practical optics, including the cylindrical lens for correcting astigmatism, an eye defect he himself possessed.

See his autobiography (1896).

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Airy, George Biddell (1801–92) A Cambridge astronomer and mathematician, Airy became Astronomer Royal in 1835. He investigated planetary motion and tides, and studied the Earth and its density, using gravity measurements. His name is used to describe one version of the theory of isostasy. His wide-ranging advice to the government on scientific issues created, for the first time, the role of a professional scientific civil servant.