DICK, THOMAS (1774-1857), Scottish writer on astronomy, was born at Dundee on the 24th of November 1774. The appearance of a brilliant meteor inspired him, when in his ninth year, with a passion for astronomy; and at the age of sixteen he forsook the loom, and supported himself by teaching. In 1794 he entered the university of Edinburgh, and set up a school on the termination of his course; then, in 1801, took out a licence to preach, and officiated for some years as probationer in the United Presbyterian church. From about 1807 to 1817 he taught in the secession school at Methven in Perthshire, and during the ensuing decade in that of Perth, where he composed his first substantive book, The Christian Philosopher (1823, 8th ed. 1842). Its success determined his vocation as an author; he built himself, in 1827, a cottage at Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, and devoted himself wholly to literary and scientific pursuits. They proved, however, owing to his unpractical turn of mind, but slightly remunerative, and he was in 1847 relieved from actual poverty by a crown pension of £50 a year, eked out by a local subscription. He died on the 29th of July 1857. His best-known works are: Celestial Scenery (1837), The Sidereal Heavens (1840), and The Practical Astronomer (1845), in which is contained (p. 204) a remarkable forecast of the powers and uses of celestial photography. Written with competent knowledge, and in an agreeable style, they obtained deserved and widespread popularity.
See R. Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen (ed. 1868); Monthly Notices Roy. Astr. Society, xviii. 98; Athenaeum (1857), p. 1008.
(A. M. C.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)