Bliss, Nathaniel (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

BLISS, NATHANIEL (1700–1764), astronomer-royal, was born 28 Nov. 1700. He was the son of Nathaniel Bliss, gentleman, of Bisley, Gloucestershire. He graduated at Pembroke College, Oxford, B.A. 27 June 1720, and M.A. 2 May 1723. He became rector of St. Ebbe's, Oxford, in 1736. He succeeded Halley as Savllian professor of geometry 18 Feb. 1742, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society 20 May following, He opened in the same year an astronomical correspondence with Bradley, communicating to him, 15 Dec. 1742, his observations of Jupiter’s satellites. Subsequently he aided him at the Royal Observatory on some special occasions, and, thus virtually designated as his successor, was, on his death in 1762, promoted to the post of astronomer-royal. He held it, however, only two years, dying 2 Sept.. 1764.

The observations made under his supervision by Charles Green (his, and formerly Bradley's assistant), being regarded as private property, were purchased from his widow by the board of longitude, and deposited at the Royal Obsewator until 1 March 1804, when they were offered to the delegates of the Clarendon Press for publication. They were accordingly appended, with those made by Green after Bliss’s death down to 15 March 1765, to the second folio volume of Bradley’s observations, issued, under Professor Abram Robertson’s editorship, in 1805. Although including only what was indispensable in order to deduce the places of the sun, moon, and planets at the most important points of their orbits (see Delambre, Hist. de l’Astr. au 18e Siècle, p. 425), they are of value as being made on Bradley's system, and with Bradley’s instruments; yet they have never been reduced.

Bliss was a frequent guest and scientidc co-adjutor of George, earl of Macclesfield. On 12 Feb. 1744-5, Bliss wrote requesting him to attempt a meridian observation of the brilliant comet then approaching the sun, which was successfully accomplished near noon, 28 and 29 Feb., both at Shirburn Castle and Greenwich. He replaced Bradley (then in failing health) in observing the transit of Venus, 6 June 1761, and communicated to the Royal Society an account of Eustachio Zanotti's observation of the same event at Bologna (Phil. Trans. lii. 173, 232, 399). His own observation of the annular eclipse visible at Greenwich, 1 April 1764, is recorded in the same publication (liv. 141). An etching by J. Caldwall, from his portrait by D. Martin, bore the punning legend: ‘Sure this is Bliss, if bliss on earth there be’ (Bromley Catalogue of Engraved Portraits, p. 357). Bliss married early, and a son John, born in 1740, proceeded B.A. at Oxford 11 March 1745–6, and M.A. 7 July 1747.

[Gent. Mag. xxxiv. 450; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Bradley's Miscellaneous Works and Correspondence. pp. lviii, 422, 426. A short notice of Bliss exists in manuscript in a copy of Thomas Streete's Astronomia Carolina. once the property of Bliss, and now in the British Museum. The notice was printed in Notes and Queries, 6th ser., xi. 235.]

A. M. C.