Taylor, Thomas Glanville (DNB00)

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TAYLOR, THOMAS GLANVILLE (1804–1848), astronomer, was born at Ashburton, Devonshire, on 22 Nov. 1804. He was a descendant of Sir John Glanville (1586–1661) [q. v.], speaker of the House of Commons in 1640. His father, Thomas Taylor, became in 1805 first assistant at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and, at the instance of the astronomer-royal, John Pond [q. v.], devoted his son to the same career. Young Taylor entered the establishment as a supernumerary in 1820, and in August 1822 was placed in regular charge of the transit instrument. His distinction as an observer was marked by Sir Edward Sabine's selection of him in 1829 as assistant in his pendulum experiments, his leisure hours being meanwhile spent in calculations for Stephen Groombridge's star catalogue.

Nominated, on Pond's recommendation, director of the East India Company's observatory at Madras, Taylor landed there on 15 Sept. 1830, and promptly unpacked an instrumental outfit by Dollond, consisting of a five-foot transit, a four-foot mural circle, and a small equatoreal. Early in 1831 he began work with four native assistants, whom he trained so effectively that his obligatory absences on the trigonometrical survey of India in no way impaired the activity of the institution. During 1831–9 he published five volumes of results, and in 1844 the ‘Madras General Catalogue’ of 11,015 stars for the epoch 1 Jan. 1835. This production was characterised by Sir George Airy in 1854 (Monthly Notices, xiv. 145) as ‘the greatest catalogue of modern times. In the number of observations,’ he remarked, ‘and in the number and distribution of the stars, and in the circumstance that the observations were made, reduced, combined, and printed at the same place, and under the same superintendence, it bears the palm from all others.’

Taylor visited England in 1840, and returned to Madras in 1841. On 10 Feb. 1842 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In the following year, while staying at the Trevandrum observatory, his shortness of sight occasioned him an accident from which he never altogether recovered. He died at Southampton on 4 May 1848, leaving a widow, Eliza, daughter of Colonel Eley, C. S. I. By her he had three sons.

Taylor accumulated extensive meteorological and magnetic data at Madras, and organised similar observations elsewhere in India. His determination of the longitude of Madras was of considerable importance to navigation (Memoirs Roy. Astronomical Society, xvi. 1). He observed Halley's comet 19 Feb. to 21 March 1836 (ib. x. 335), and Wilmot's 5 Jan. to 11 March 1845 (Monthly Notices, vii. 11). He was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. Mädler regarded Taylor's observations as comparable in value to those of Dr. James Bradley [q. v.] and as the first of satisfactory accuracy made within the tropics (Astr. Nach. No. 675). They have for half a century been indispensable to inquiries into the proper motions of southern stars.

[Monthly Notices, ix. 62; André et Rayet's L'Astronomie Pratique, ii. 83; Mémoires Couronnés publiés par l'Académie Royale de Belgique (collection in 8vo), 1873, tom. xxiii. pt. ii. pp. 125–9.]

A. M. C.