Thursday, 26 March 2009

Young Frank

RH says..... As we see Frank Dyson, only about 26, taking charge of the Observatory in his first month as Chief Assistant while the Astronomer Royal was away, we can imagine some of the awkwardness that must have existed between him and his older and more experienced, but junior ranking, colleagues. Some of this had been felt by H.H. Turner when he arrived at the age of 21, as shown in the quotation I posted earlier. I found this theme raised again in an obituary of Dyson from 1940: "The appointment of a young man who had hitherto had no great practical experience of astronomical observations to an important post at a great observatory may not appear a natural one, and at times such appointments have given rise to considerable criticism, but it must be admitted that such appointments at Greenwich have generally been justified by the results. It was particularly so in the case of Dyson."

Postcard of Royal Observatory, Greenwich, about 1902.
Dyson seems to have quickly adapted himself to the practical work of the Observatory and worked chiefly on the Greenwich contribution to the international Carte du Ciel project, which was founded in 1887 to photograph, measure and catalogue millions of stars. His work ensured that by 1909 the ROG was the only one of the participating institutions to have completed its allotted programme.

Dyson, apparently, "combined charm with common sense" (according to his entry in the ODNB), which one can only assume would have eased his path at Greenwich.

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