Lockyer, Norman

Joseph Norman Lockyer was born at Rugby on May, 17th 1836 to Mr. Joseph Hooley Lockyer, a lecturer on scientific subjects at Rugby School and his wife Anne Norman. He was educated at private schools on the Continent, and from 1857 worked at the War Office. In 1870 he was appointed the Secretary of the Duke of Devonshire's Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science. When the work of the Commission was completed he was offered an appointement in the Science and Art Departement, South Kensington, by Mr. Disraeli, the Prime Minister, which he accepted in 1875.

While at the war office his leisure was devoted to the study of astronomy, and while there he erected an observatory at his home in Hampstead. His first observations were on the planet Mars, and he communicated them in 1863 to the Royal Astronomical Society, having been elected a Fellow of that Society two years previously.

In 1861 Lockyer bought his first telescope, a refractor made by Thomas Cooke ( 3.75" dia. ??). Cooke encouraged Lockyer's interest in astronomy and in 1862 lent him a 6.25 inch object glass to build a telescope with which he was to make important observations during the next 10 years. This telescope has recently (1993) been returned to the Norman Lockyer Observatory. In 1864, probably as a result of discussions with William Huggins, he obtained a spectroscope of small dispersion, and he turned his attention to the sun. It was not until October 20st, 1868 that Lockyer was able to confirm the suggestion, wich he had made in 1866, that bright emission lines from prominences of the sun could be seen at times other than during total eclipses. The same technique had been demonstrated independently by the french astronomer Jules Janssen, and the french Academy of Sciences commemorated the discovery by striking a medal in honour of them both.

At the College of Chemistry in Oxford Street, London, tests were made to reproduce the observed emission lines in the spectrum of the sun. It was then impossible to find a source for the strong yellow line, which Lockyer had first noticed together with Edward Franklandin 1868, and in 1870 he put forward the suggestion that it was due to an hypothetical element to which he gave the name 'Helium'. It was 25 years before Ramsay was able to find Helium in a terrestial source in the year 1895. Lockyer was knighted in 1897 for this discovery.

Lockyer had the idea for a regular journal to report the latest advances in all branches of science. In Messrs. Macmillan & Co he found support to publish NATURE in 1869 with himself as its editor for half a century. The journal with this name is still in print.

Lockyer retired from his professoral post in 1902 when the Solar Physics Observatory was moved from Kensington to Cambridge. He was strongly against a relocation to Cambridge since he considered that the new site should be on a hill and away from city lights. By this time he was 76, but then he put his energies into the establishment of the Hill Observatory at Salcombe Regis, neart Sidmouth, Devon, where his wife owned land on which they had recently built their house.

Sir Norman Lockyer died August 16th, 1920, at Salcombe Hill, Devon.

The 'Hill Observatory' is still there and today run by amateurs. Today it is known as the 'Norman Lockyer Observatory'.

More biographical information may be found at the following sources:

1. WILKINS, G.A. Sir Norman Lockyer's Contributions to Science.
Q.J.R. astr. Soc. [1994], 35, 51-57

2. BOSLER, Jean. Sir Norman Lockyer.
Rev.Gén.Sci., [1920], 31: 605-7.

3. DESLANDRES, H. Sir Norman Lockyer, K.C.B., F.R.S.
Nature, [1919], 104: 191-5.

4. FOWLER, A. Sir Norman Lockyer's contributions to astrophysics.
Nature, [1920], 105: 831-3.

5. JOSEPH NORMAN LOCKYER (1836 - 1920).
Obituary by A.F. Proc.Roy.Soc.Ser.A, [1939], 104: i-xiv, portr.

6. LOCKYER, T. Mary; LOCKYER, Winifred L. Life and Work of Sir
Norman Lockyer.
With the assistance of H. Dingle, and contributions by Charles E.
St. John, and others. xii 474 p.,17 pl. London: Macmillan, [1928]
Reviewed by Henry E. Armstrong, Nature, [1928], 122: 870-4.

7. MEMORIAL tributes to Sir Norman Lockyer.
Nature, [1920], 106: 20-5.

8. THE NORMAN LOCKYER OBSERVATORY. Unveiling of a portrait medallion
of the founder. Nature [1922], 110: 192-5.

9. SIR NORMAN LOCKYER, K.C.B., F.R.S. Obituary.
Nature, [1920], 105: 781-4.

Picture of Lockyer 38 kB

See also the Web-page of the NLO, the

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