Ranyard, Arthur Cowper

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(b. Swanscombe, Kent, England, 21 June 1845; d. London, England, 14 December 1894)


Ranyard was educated at University College, London, and then at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He eventually returned to London, where, in 1871, he was called to the bar. While at University College, he and George De Morgan began a student mathematical society which subsequently became the London Mathematical Society.

Ranyard was interested throughout his life in problems of photography. His main research field, however, was astronomy; and he was concerned especially with the observation of solar eclipses. He assisted Lockyer in organizing the British eclipse expedition in 1870, and he himself observed the eclipses of 1878 and 1882. His major scientific contribution resulted from this work. When the Royal Astronomical Society decided to publish a memoir devoted to solar eclipse observations, Ranyard undertook the task but gradually extended its scope. The volume finally appeared in 1879, and it covered all nineteenth-century eclipse observations up to that time. The work remained a standard source of information on eclipses for many years.

Ranyard found himself involved in some dispute with the Royal Astronomical Society over the length of time it took him to prepare this eclipse volume; and as a member of the council of the society during the 1870’s and 1880’s, he was, in fact, one of the central figures in several of the controversies that affected the society at that time.

In the years preceding his death, Ranyard became interested in the possibility of observing the sun with a spectroheliograph. He had such an instrument constructed but died before it could be brought into operation. This and other of his instruments were bequeathed to Evershed, whom he helped introduce to solar research.


Ranyard’s important work is “Observations Made During Total Solar Eclipses,” in Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society, 41 (1879), 1–792. The Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers, VIII, 700; XI, 105–106; and XVIII, 52, gives a bibliography of his works.

There is a short obituary of Ranyard in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 55 (1895), 198–201. Most of his research papers appeared in the publications of the Royal Astronomical Society.

A. J. Meadows