Astronomical achievement

14th January 2015

News, Alumni news

Wadham alumnus and lecturer Allan Chapman has been awarded the Jackson-Gwilt Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society for his outstanding contribution to astronomy.

This award was among the 2015 medals and prizes announced by the RAS on Friday 9 January. It will be presented to Dr Chapman at a forthcoming meeting of the RAS.

Congratulating the winners Professor Martin Barstow, President of the RAS, commented: "There are many exceptionally talented women and men working in astronomy and geophysics, here in the UK and across the world. Our medals and awards honour those who have made an outstanding contribution to these sciences. As President of the RAS, it gives me enormous pleasure to congratulate this year's winners and to wish them continued success in all that they do."

Dr Chapman (1972, DPhil History of Science) is a renowned historian of astronomy. Through his extensive public lecturing, publications and television appearances he has brought astronomical history to new audiences. In doing so he has raised the profile of the history of astronomy and stimulated historical research.

Dr Chapman's book, The Victorian Amateur Astronomer: Independent Astronomical Research in Britain 1820-1920 is of particular note and is an essential resource for any researcher of nineteenth-century astronomy. The Victorian Amateur Astronomer identifies and honours the "grand amateurs", a term he used to describe a group of people, seemingly unique to Britain, who made major discoveries from privately-funded observatories or who popularised astronomy among the masses. Allan Chapman's in-depth research documents the work and achievements of the often self-educated assistant astronomers, many of whom were previously unknown and who did so much of the ground-work that led to published results. The era spanned by his book is of great importance to British astronomy and it puts into social context the foundation of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Astronomical Association. Dr Chapman's work for this publication resulted in the foundation of the Society of the History of Astronomy, a society which seeks to understand the history of astronomy and the important contributions by lesser-known figures in history as well as those who are more famous.

Dr Chapman commented: “I am the first person in 118 years to receive the Jackson-Gwilt medal for significant contributions to the history of astronomy.” The medal can also be awarded for single investigations of outstanding merit in the invention, improvement or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques or achievement in observational astronomy.

  • Dr Allan Chapman

    Dr Allan Chapman

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