Hind, John Russell

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Hind, John Russell

(b. Nottingham, England, 12 May 1823; d. Twickenham, England, 23 December 1895)


Hind was the son of John Hind, a lace manufacturer who was one of the first to introduce the Jacquard loom to Nottingham. Educated privately and at Nottingham Grammar School, he showed an interest in astronomy at an early age and when sixteen years old became a contributor to the Nottingham Journal and the Atmospheric Almanac, publishing in the latter weather predictions for 1839 and 1840. In 1840 he obtained employment with a civil engineer in London but in November of the same year, through the good offices of Sir Charles Wheatstone, was appointed to the newly formed magnetic and meteorological department of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

During his time at Greenwich under the astronomer royal G. B. Airy, Hind became a proficient observer with the Sheepshanks equatorial telescope and in 1844 took part in the first chronometric determination of the longitude of Valencia, Ireland. After resigning in the autumn of 1844, he was employed by George Bishop as supervisor of the latter’s private observatory at Regent’s Park, London. He married in 1846 and had six children.

In the course of a nine-year search for small planets, Hind discovered ten asteroids (including Iris and Flora), two comets, a variable nebula in Taurus, and several variable stars. In 1851 he accompanied Rev. W. R. Dawes to Sweden to observe the total eclipse of 28 July, when he observed “rose-coloured flames” at the sun’s limb.

Hind’s skill and perseverance gained him a wide reputation; tangible recognition came in the form of £100 from the Royal Bounty Fund in 1851 and an annual Civil List pension of £200 the following year. In 1853, following the death of W. S. Stratford, he was appointed superintendent of the Nautical Almanac Office (even though J. C. Adams was a candidate for the post).

His organizing and computing ability enabled Hind to carry out his official duties without relinquishing supervision of Bishop’s observatory; when, on the latter’s death in 1861, the instruments were moved to Twickenham by George Bishop, Jr., Hind also moved there.

Hind was in charge of the publication of the Nautical Almanac until 1891, when he retired. He continued his observations, despite failing health, until his death from heart disease in 1895. A regular and prolific contributor to scientific journals, Hind wrote mainly on ephemerides and comets, and was the author of several books.

Hind joined the Royal Astronomical Society in 1844, served as foreign secretary from 1847 to 1857, and was president from 1880 to 1881. He was elected a corresponding member of the Société Philomatique (1847) and of the Académic des Sciences of Paris (1851) and in 1863 fellow of the Royal Society and subsequently of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He received the LL.D. from the University of Glasgow in 1882.

Three times recipient of the Lalande Prize, Hind numbered among his many awards for his services to astronomy the gold medals of the Royal Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the king of Denmark.


Hind was a regular contributor to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1843 to 1890, publishing more than 150 notes or papers, principally on ephemerides and comets. “Comparison of Burckhardt’s and Hansen’s Lunar Tables” is an appendix to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (1890). Contributions of a more popular nature include The Comets (London, 1852); An Introduction to Astronomy, in Bohn’s Standard Library (London, 1852);. The Solar System (London, 1852); and Illustrated London Astronomy (London, 1853).

P. S. Laurie