Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 58.djvu/72

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Ussher
Ussher
64

movement; an equatoreal machine with circles five feet in diameter; a transit of six feet focal length, and a ten-foot vertical circle executed, after interminable delays, on a reduced scale [see Brinkley, John, (1763–1835)]. Ussher chose a site for the observatory at Dunsink, co. Dublin, planned the building, and supervised its construction. His stipend was fixed at 250l. per annum, out of which he undertook to defray all current official expenditure; but the board (consisting of the provost and senior fellows of Trinity College) made him, on 19 Feb. 1785, a special grant of 200l. His election as a fellow of the Royal Society of London on 24 Nov. 1785 followed close upon the incorporation of the Royal Irish Academy, of which body he was an original member. He died at his house in Harcourt Street, Dublin, on 8 May 1790, and was buried in the college chapel. His premature death, just as the initial difficulties of his career were overcome, was lamented as a calamity by men of science. The board allowed a pension to his widow, and promised grants of 50l. and 20l. respectively for the printing of his sermons and astronomical manuscripts. They ordered besides that his bust should be placed in the observatory, and proposed his death as the subject of a prize poem. But no publications ensued, and he remained without commemoration either in verse or marble.

Ussher married Mary Burne, and left three sons and five daughters. His eldest son was Admiral Sir Thomas Ussher [q. v.]

The undermentioned are the most important of the papers contributed by Ussher to the first three volumes of the ‘Transactions’ of the Royal Society:

  1. ‘An Account of the Observatory belonging to Trinity College, Dublin.’
  2. ‘A New Method of illuminating the Wires, and regulating the Position of the Transit.’
  3. ‘An Account of some Observations made with a view to ascertain whether Magnifying Power or Aperture contributes most to the discerning small Stars in the Day,’ translated in ‘Journal der Physik,’ 1791, iv. 54.
  4. ‘Observations on the Disappearance and Reappearance of Saturn's Rings in the Year 1789.’ From the compression of the globe he deduced a rotation-period for the planet of 10h 12½m.
  5. ‘An Account of an Aurora Borealis seen in full Sunshine.’ This unique phenomenon occurred on 25 May 1788.

[The Book of Trinity College, Dublin, 1591–1891; Taylor's History of the University of Dublin; Burke's Landed Gentry; Universal Magazine (Dublin), iii. 499; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Cat. Grad. University of Dublin; Gent. Mag. 1790, p. 479.]

A. M. C.

USSHER, JAMES (1581–1656), archbishop of Armagh, second but elder surviving son of Arland (Arnoldus) Ussher (d. 12 Aug. 1598), clerk of the Irish court of chancery, by his wife Margaret (d. November 1626), daughter of James Stanyhurst [see under Stanyhurst, Richard], was born in Nicholas Street, parish of St. Nicholas Within, Dublin, on 4 Jan. 1580–1. Ambrose Ussher [q. v.] was his younger brother. Both parents were originally protestants. His mother became a Roman catholic before her death. Two blind aunts (probably Alice and Katherine Ussher, his father's sisters) taught him to read. At the age of eight he entered the free Latin school in Schoolhouse Lane, Dublin, conducted by (Sir) James Fullerton (d. 1630) and James Hamilton (Viscount Claneboye) [q. v.], two Scottish presbyterians, political agents of James VI. On the opening of Trinity College, Dublin [see Ussher, Henry], on 9 Jan. 1593–4, Hamilton was one of the original fellows, and Ussher was entered under him, at the age of thirteen, as one of the earliest scholars on a foundation which owed its existence to the efforts of his family on both sides of the house. He was not, as Bernard affirms, the first scholar entered; his name follows that of Abel Walsh, afterwards dean of Tuam. He had already shown a precocious taste for divinity and chronology, having read something of William Perkins (in manuscript), the ‘Meditations’ of St. Augustine, probably in the ‘purified’ translation (1581) by Thomas Rogers (d. 1616) [q. v.], and Sleidan's ‘De Quatuor Summis Imperiis.’ Greek and Hebrew he began at Trinity College. Before graduating B.A. (probably in July 1597) he had drawn up in Latin a biblical chronology (to the end of the Hebrew monarchy), which formed the basis of his ‘Annales.’ His father, intending him for the bar, had arranged, much against Ussher's own will, for his legal studies in London. On his father's death (1598) he inherited a considerable but burdened estate. This, on coming of age, he transferred to his uncle, George Ussher (1558–1610), a Dublin merchant, in trust for his brother and sisters, reserving a small sum for his college maintenance.

Ussher first exhibited his powers at an academic disputation before Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex [q. v.], the new chancellor of Trinity College, in April 1599. His success led him to enter the lists in public discussion with Henry Fitzsimon [q. v.], then a prisoner for his religion in Dublin Castle. Both disputants have given some account of the encounter. Fitzsimon describes Ussher as ‘octodenarius præcocis