Shepherd, Antony (DNB00)

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SHEPHERD, ANTONY (1721–1796), Plumian professor of astronomy at Cambridge, elder son of Arthur Shepherd, was born at Kendal in 1721, was admitted to St. John's College, Cambridge 27 June 1740, at the age of nineteen, graduated B.A. in 1743, M.A. (from Christ's College) in 1747, B.D. in 1761, and D.D. in 1766. He took holy orders and held a long succession of livings—Eastling, Kent, 1745 to 1752; Croxton, near Thetford, from 21 Jan. 1756; Bourne from 30 March 1758 to 1763; and Barton Mills from 1778. He was fellow of Christ's College from 9 Jan. 1747 to 22 Nov. 1783. He had (December 1765) a lease of the tithes of Burnham Westgate, out of which arose a lawsuit which lasted twenty years. He was appointed sole tutor at Christ's in 1768, but entrusted his duties as lecturer to W. Paley and J. Law, who, however, did not obtain a very fair share of the tuition fees till 1772.

Meanwhile Shepherd had devoted himself to astronomy. He was elected Plumian professor of astronomy at Cambridge in 1760, and F.R.S. in 1763. In 1768 he was appointed master of mechanics to his majesty, doubtless owing to the influence of John Montagu, fourth earl of Sandwich [q. v.], whose favour he had secured (Cambridge Chronicle, 28 May 1768; cf. Paley's ‘Life’ by E. Paley, Works of W. Paley, 1825, i. 80–1; and Meadley's Memoirs of W. Paley); and in 1772 wrote the preface to the quarto volume, ‘Tables for correcting the apparent Distance of the Moon and a Star from the effects of Refraction and Parallax,’ which was published by order of the commissioners of longitude. In 1776 Shepherd published the syllabus of a course of lectures on experimental philosophy, given at Trinity College.

In July 1777 he was made canon of Windsor, and strenuous efforts were made to eject him, as a pluralist, from his fellowship at Christ's College (cf. Cat. Cambridge Univ. MSS. pp. 360*, 361, 362). He resigned the fellowship six years later. Frances Burney describes him as ‘prodigiously tall and stout’ and as ‘dullness itself;’ but it is said that Captain Cook named an island ‘after his friend, Dr. Shepherd’ (Early Diary of Frances Burney, 1768–78, ed. Ellis, 1889, i. 109, 206, 282). He was credited with ‘a taste for wine and music,’ but he ‘did not shine more in music than he did in astronomy’ (Nichols, Illustrations of Lit. vi. 677, and Lit. Anecdotes, viii. 395). He died at his house in Dean Street, Soho, on 15 June 1796. There is a painting of him in the library of the university of Cambridge, by Vanderpuyl, and a bust of him in the library of Trinity College.

[Authorities cited; information has been courteously supplied by the master of Christ's College, the bursar of St. John's College, and by Mr. W. W. R. Ball of Trinity College.]

H. F. B.