1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Stone, Edward James

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STONE, EDWARD JAMES (1831–1897), British astronomer, was born in London on the 28th of February 1831. Educated at the City of London School, he obtained a studentship at King's College, London, and in 1856 a scholarship at Queen's College, Cambridge, graduated as fifth wrangler in 1859, and was immediately elected fellow of his college. The following year he succeeded the Rev. R. Main as chief assistant at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and at once undertook the fundamental task of improving astronomical constants. The most important of these, the sun's mean parallax, was at that time subject to considerable uncertainty. From a discussion of the observations of Mars made in i860 and 1862 at Greenwich and Williamstown (near Melbourne), Stone deduced for it a value of 8.932" (Mon. Not. R.A.S. xxiii. 183), and in a further investigation in which he included the observations made in 1862, at the Cape of Good Hope, he obtained 8.945" (Mem. of R.A.S., vol. xxxiii.). Confirmatory results were afforded by his discussion of the observations of the transit of Venus in 1769 which yielded the figure 8.91" (Mon. Not. R.A.S. xxviii. 255). In 1865 he contributed a memoir to the Royal Astronomical Society on the constant of lunar parallax. He also determined the mass of the moon, and from a discussion of the Greenwich transit circle observations between 1851 and 1865 he found for the constant of nutation the value 9.134". These services were recognized by the award of the Royal Astronomical Society's gold medal in 1869, and on the resignation of Sir Thomas Maclear in 1870 he was appointed Her Majesty's astronomer at the Cape. His first task on taking up this post was the reduction and publication of a large mass of observations left by his predecessor, from a selected portion of which (those made 1856–1860) he compiled a catalogue of 1159 stars. His principal work was, however, a catalogue of 12,441 stars to the 7th magnitude between the South Pole and 25º S. declination, which was practically finished by the end of 1878 and published in 1881. Shortly after the death of Main on the 9th of May 1878, Stone was appointed to succeed him as Radcliffe Observer at Oxford, and he left the Cape on the 27th of May 1879. At Oxford he extended the Cape observations of stars to the 7th magnitude from 25º S. declination to the equator, and collected the results in the Radcliffe Catalogue for 1890, which contains the places of 6424 stars. Stone observed the transit of Venus of 1874 at the Cape, and organized the government expeditions for the corresponding event in 1882. He was elected president of the Royal Astronomical Society (1882–1884), and he was the first to recognize the importance of the old observations accumulated at the Radcliffe Observatory by Hornsby, Robertson and Rigaud (Mon. Not. R.A.S., vol. lv.). He successfully observed the total solar eclipse of the 8th of August 1896 at Novaya Zemlya, and purposed a voyage to India for the eclipse of 1898, but died suddenly at the Radcliffe Observatory on the 9th of May 1897. The number of his astronomical publications exceeds 150, but his reputation depends mainly on his earlier work at Greenwich and his two great star catalogues—the Cape Catalogue for 1880 and the Radcliffe Catalogue for 1890.

See Proc. Roy. Society, lxii. 10; Month. Not. Roy. Ast. Soc. lviii. 143; The Times, 10th of May 1897; Observatory, xx. 234; Astr. Nach. No. 3426; Roy. Soc. Cat. Scient. Papers.  (A. M. C.)