Horrox, Jeremiah

, an English astronomer, and memorable for being the first who had observed the passage of Venus over the sun’s disk, was born at Toxteth in Lancashire, about 1619. From a school in the country, where he acquired grammar-learning, he was sent to Emanuel-college in Cambridge, and there spent some time | in academical studies. About 1633, he began with real earnestness to study astronomy: but living at that time with his father at Toxteth, in very moderate circumstances, and being destitute of' books and other assistances for the prosecution of this study, he could not make any considerable progress. He spent some of his first years in studying the writings of Lansbergius, of which he repented and complained afterwards; neglecting in the mean time the more valuable and profitable works of Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and other excellent astronomers. In 16^6, he contracted an acquaintance with Mr. William Crabtree of Broughton near Manchester, and was engaged in the same studies; but living at a considerable distance from each other, they could have little correspondence except by letters. These, however, they frequently exchanged, communicating their observations to one another; and they sometimes consulted Mr. Samuel Foster, professor of astronomy at Gresham-college in London. Horrox having now obtained a companion in his studies, assumed new spirits. Procuring astronomical instruments and books, he applied himself to make observations; and by Crabtree’s advice, laid aside Lansbergius, whose tables he found erroneous, and his hypotheses inconsistent. He was pursuing his studies with great vigour and success, when he was cut off by a sudden death, Jan. 3, 1640-1.

What we have of his writings is sufficient to shew, that his death was a loss to science. A little before that time he had finished his “Venus in Sole visa.” He made his observations upon this new and extraordinary phenomenon at Hool near Liverpool; but they did not appear till 1662, when Hevelius published them at Dantzick, with some works of his own, under this title, “Mercurius in Sole visus Gedani anno 1661, Maij 3, cum aliis quibusdam rerum ccelestium observationibus rarisque phienomenis. Cui annexa est Venus in Sole pariter visa anno 1639, Nov. 24, &c.” Besides this work he had begun another, in which he proposed, first, to refute Lansbergius’s hypotheses, and to shew, how inconsistent they were with each other and the heavens; and, secondly, to draw up a new system of astronomy, agreeably to the heavens, from his own observations and those of others; retaining for the most part the Keplerian hypotheses, but changing the numbers as, observations required. Wallis, from whose “Epistola | Nuncupatoria” we have extracted these memoirs of Horrox, published some of his papers in 1673, under the title of “Opera Poathuma:” others were carried into Ireland by his brother Jonas Horrox, who had pursued the same studies, and died there, by which means they were lost: and others came into the hands of Mr. Jeremiah Shakerly, who, by the assistance of them, formed his “British Tables,” published at London in 1653: which last papers, after Shakerly’s voyage to the East-Indies, where he died, are said to have remained in the possession of a bookseller, till they were destroyed by the great fire at London in 1666. 1


Gen. Dict. -Martin’s Biog. Pfiilos. —Hutton’s Dict. Birch’s Hist, of the Royal Society.