Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol III (1901).djvu/364

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Smyth
Smyth
350

committee of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Among his minor writings were the treatise on Persian art, issued by the science and art department in 1876, a paper on ‘The Strategy of Russia in Central Asia’ (Journal of the United Service Institution, xvii. 212-22), and a lecture to the Society of Arts on ‘The Karun River as a Trade Route’ (Journal of the Society of Arts, xxxvii. 561-7), for which he was awarded the society's silver medal. This paper was described by Vambéry as ‘perhaps the best paper hitherto published on the subject.’

In February 1899 the magistrates of his native town (Kilmarnock) presented him with the freedom of the burgh. Smith died at Edinburgh on 3 July 1900, and was buried in the Dean cemetery.

In 1869 he married Eleanor, daughter of Captain John Robinet Baker, R.N. (she died in Persia in 1883). Of nine children, seven died in Persia—three on three consecutive days at Kashan—and he was survived by two daughters.

[Life of Major-general Sir Robert Murdoch Smith, by his son-in-law, W. K. Dickson, Edinburgh, 1901; obituary notice in the Scotsman, 5 July 1900; Lord Curzon's Persia, passim; Goldsmid's Telegraph and Travel; Scottish Geographical Mag. v. 5, 484-5; Scotsman, 26 Oct. 1896 (‘An Archaeological Expedition to Asia Minor Forty Years ago’); Royal Engineers Journal, September 1900 (‘Sir R. M. Smith,’ by Major-general Sir Charles Wilson); private information.]

G. S-h.


SMYTH, CHARLES PIAZZI (1819–1900), astronomer, second son of Admiral William Henry Smyth [q. v.], was born at Naples on 3 Jan. 1819, and named after the Sicilian astronomer, Giuseppe Piazzi. He was educated at the Bedford grammar school, and in 1835 entered the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, as assistant. There he observed the great comets of 1836 (Halley's) and 1843, and co-operated with Sir Thomas Maclear [q. v.] in the extension of Lacaille's arc. In 1845 he succeeded Thomas Henderson [q. v.] as astronomer-royal for Scotland, but found, to his acute disappointment, the observatory in a state of dilapidation, and the English home office deaf to petitions for its renovation. He, however, completed the reduction of Henderson's meridian observations, and continued the determination of star-places, publishing the results in the ‘Edinburgh Astronomical Observations’ (vols. xi. to xv.) In 1852 he organised time-signalling by the dropping of a ball on the Calton Hill, improved to a time-gun in 1861. He went to Sweden for the total solar eclipse of 28 July 1851, but saw little except mist from his post on the island of Bue (Memoirs Roy. Astr. Society, xxi. 25). A sum of 500l. having been placed at his disposal by the admiralty for the purpose of experimenting upon telescopic vision on the peak of Teneriffe, he repaired thither in May 1856 in the yacht Titania, lent him by Robert Stephenson [q. v.] Returning in October he published a popular account of the trip, entitled ‘Teneriffe, an Astronomical Experiment’ (London, 1858), and embodied the scientific results in a paper for the Royal Society, of which he was elected fellow on 11 June 1857 (Phil. Trans. cxlviii. 465), and in a report to the lords commissioners of the admiralty. They were also fully described in the ‘Edinburgh Astronomical Observations’ (vol. xii.)

In 1859 he visited the Russian observatories, and gave his impressions of them in ‘Three Cities in Russia’ (2 vols. London, 1862). Having published, late in 1864, ‘Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid’ (5th edit. 1890), he hurried to Egypt and devoted the winter to measuring and surveying the edifice. His interpretation of its design, divinely revealed to its constructor, Melchisedec, preluded, he supposed, the commencement of the millennium in 1882; and he detected, among other mysteries conveyed by its proportions, a cryptographic solution of the problem of squaring the circle. A paper on the subject sent by him to the Royal Society having been denied a reading, he resigned his fellowship on 7 Feb. 1874, and gave his reasons to the public in a tract on ‘The Great Pyramid and the Royal Society’ (London, 1874).

Notwithstanding these deviations into ‘paradox of a very high order’ (in De Morgan's phrase), Smyth did admirable work in spectroscopy. He effectively promoted the study of telluric absorption (Monthly Notices, xxxix. 38), and brought the ‘rain-band’ into use for weather prediction (Nature, xii. 231, xiv. 9; Journal Scottish Meteor. Society, v. 84). A map of the solar spectrum constructed by him at Lisbon in 1877-8 (Edin. Phil. Trans. xxix. 285) received the Makdougall-Brisbane prize of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; and he revised the work with a Rutherfurd grating at Madeira in 1880, and at Winchester in 1884 (ib. vol. xxxii.) His adoption of ‘end-on’ vacuum-tubes for the investigation of gaseous spectra (ib. xxx. 93, xxxii. pt. iii.; Trans. Scottish Soc. of Arts, x. 226) was an improvement of great consequence. He detected, in conjunction with Professor Alexander Herschel, the harmonic character of the carbonic-oxide spectrum, and