, D. D. Savilian professor of astronomy in Oxford, F. R. S. and member of the
, D. D. Savilian professor of astronomy in Oxford, F. R. S. and member of the academies of sciences and belles-lettres of Paris, Berlin, Petersburgh, and Bologna, was born at Shireborn in Gloucestershire in 1692, and educated at Northleach in the same county. Thence he was admitted a commoner of Balliol-college in Oxford, March 15, 1710: where he took the degree of B. A. Oct. 14, 1714, and of M. A. Jan. 21, 1716. He was ordained deacon and priest in 1719, and instituted the same year to the vicarage of Bridstow in Herefordshire. He never had any other preferment in the church, except the small rectory or sinecure of Landewy Welfry, in the county of Pembroke, and diocese of St. David: and hi* institution to this bears date the Jst of March 1719. It is presumed that the bishop of Hereford, to whom he was chaplain, was his patron to the vicarage; and Mr. Molyneux, who was then secretary to the prince of Wales, procfcred him the sinecure.
On the death of John Keill, M. D. he was chosen Savilian professor of astronomy in Oxford, Oct. 31, 1721. On this promotion,
On the death of John Keill, M. D. he was chosen Savilian professor of astronomy in Oxford, Oct. 31, 1721. On this promotion, so agreeable to his taste, he resigned the living of Bridstow, and also the sinecure of Landewy Welfry, and henceforward devoted his time and studies to his beloved science; nor was he sooner known, than distinguished by the friendship of lord Macclesfield, sir Isaac Newton, his colleague in the Savilian professorship, Dr. Halley, and other great mathematicians, astronomers, and patrons of science. In the course of his observations, which were innumerable, he discovered and settled the laws of the alterations of the fixed stars, from the progressive motion of light, combined with the earth’s annual motion about the sun, and the nutation of the earth’s axis, arising from the unequal attraction of the sun and moon on the different parts of the earth. The former of -these effects is called the aberration of the fixed stars, the theory of which he published in 1727; and the latter the nutation of the earth’s axis, the theory of which appeared in 1737: so that in the space of about 10 years, he communicated to the world two of the finest discoveries in modern astronomy; which will for ever make a memorable epoch in the history of that science. In 1730, he succeeded Mr. Whiteside, as lecture-reader of astronomy and experimental philosophy in Oxford: which was a considerable emolument to himself, and which he held till within a year or two of his death, when the ill state of his health made it necessary to resign it. At the decease of Dr. Halley, he was appointed astronomical observator at the royal observatory at Greenwich, February 3, 174-1-2. From letters found amongst his papers, it appears that Dr. Halley was very desirous that our astronomer should succeed him; and in one letter, when he found himself declining, he desires his leave to make interest for him: but he owed this new acquisition chiefly to the friendship of lord Macclesfield, the late president of the royal society. Upoa this promotion he was honoured with the degree of doctor of divinity, by diploma from Oxford.