Birmingham, John (DNB00)
BIRMINGHAM, JOHN (1816–1884), astronomer, was a country gentleman residing at Millbrook, near Tuam, Ireland, whose attention was directed to astronomy by his discovery of a remarkable new star in Corona Borealis on 12 May 1866 (Month. Not. xxvi. 310). In 1872, at the suggestion of the Rev. T. W. Webb, he undertook a revision of Schjellerup’s ‘Catalogue of Red Stars,’ and extended the scope of his task so as to include Schmidt's list from the ‘Astronomische Nachrichten’ (No. 1902), some ninety ruddy stars found by Webb and himself, with others ointed out by the late C. E. Burton—in all, 658 such objects reobserved with a 4½-inch reflector, and a magnifying power of 53. The spectra of several, as described by Secchi, D’Arrest, and others, were added. This valuable work was presented to the Royal Irish Academy on 26 June 1876, and published in their ‘Transactions’ (xxvi 249, 1879). Its merit was acknowledged by the bestowal of the Cunningham medal early in 1881. Birmingham was engaged in revising and extending it at the time of his death, which occurred at Millbrook, from an attack of jaundice, on 7 Sept. 1884. He was unmarried, a pious catholic, liberal, kindly, and unassuming. He possessed considerable linguistic accomplishments, had travelled in most parts of Europe, and was in correspondence with several foreign astronomers, notable with Father Secchi of Rome. He held for some time the post of inspector under the board of works.
On 22 May 1881 he discovered a deep red star in Cygnus, which proved strikingly variable, and became known by his name. The particulars of his observations on the meteor-showers of 12-13 Dec. 1866, and 27 Nov. 1872, on the transit of Venus of 6 Dec. 1882, on sun-spots and variables, were published in ‘Monthly Notices,’ ‘Astronomische Nachrichten,’ and ‘Nature.’ He communicated to the British Association in 1857 a paper on ‘The Drift of West Galway and the Eastern Parts of Mayo’ (Report, ii. 61), published in extenso in the ‘Journal of the Geological Society of Dublin’ (viii. 28, 111). The same volume contains (p. 26) his remarks on the ‘Junction of the Limestone, Sandstone, and Granite at Oughterard, co. Galway.' His only separate publication was a small poetical work of a controversial character entitled ‘Anglicania, or England’s Mission to the Celt’ (London, 1863).
[Athenæum 20 Sept, 1884; Tuam News, 12 Sept. 1884; R. Soc. Cat. Scientific Papers, i. 388, vii. 178.]