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Pond, John

POND, JOHN (c. 1767-1836), English astronomer-royal, was born about 1767 in London, where his father made a fortune in trade. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of sixteen, but took no degree, his course being interrupted by severe pulmonary attacks which compelled a long residence abroad. In 1800 he settled at Westbury near Bristol, and began to determine star-places with a fine altitude and azimuth circle of 25 ft. diameter by E. Troughton. His demonstration in 1806 (Phil. Trans, xcvi. 420) of a change of form in the Greenwich mural quadrant led to the introduction of astronomical circles at the Royal Observatory, and to his own appointment as its head. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on the 26th of February 1807; he married and went to live in London in the same year, and in 1811 succeeded Maskelyne as astronomer-royal.

During an administration of nearly twenty-five years Pond effected a reform of practical astronomy in England comparable to that effected by Bessel in Germany. In 1821 he began to employ the method of observation by reflection; and in 1825 he devised means (see Mem. Roy. Astron. Soc. ii. 499) of combining two mural circles in the determination of the place of a single object, the one serving for direct and the other for reflected vision. Under his auspices the instrumental equipment at Greenwich was completely changed, and the number of assistants increased from one to six. The superior accuracy of his determinations was attested by S. C. Chandler's discussion of them in 1894, in the course of his researches into the variation of latitude (Astron. Journ. Nos. 313, 315). He persistently controverted (1810-1824) the reality of J. Brinkley's imaginary star-parallaxes (Phil. Trans, cviii. 477, cxiii. 53). Delicacy of health compelled his retirement in the autumn of 1835. He died at Blackheath on the 7th of September 1836, and was buried beside Halley in the churchyard of Lee. The Copley medal was conferred upon him in 1823, and the Lalande prize in 1817 by the Paris Academy, of which he was a corresponding member. He published eight folio volumes of Greenwich Observations, translated Laplace's Systeme du monde (in 2 vols. 8vo., 1809), and contributed thirty -one papers to scientific collections. His catalogue of 1112 stars (1833) was of great value.

See Mem. Roy. Astron. Soc. x. 357; Proc. Roy. Soc. iii. 434; Penny Cyclopaedia (De Morgan); F. W. Bessel, Pop. Vorlesungen, p. 543; Report Brit. Assoc. i. 128, 136 (Airy); Sir G. Airy's Autobiography, p. 127; Observatory, xiii. 204, xxii. 357; Annual Biography and Obituary (1837); R. Grant, Hist, of Phys. Astron. p. 491 ; Royal Society's Cat. Scient. Papers.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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