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William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse

Astronomy and the castle in nineteenth-century Ireland

Edited by R. Charles Mollan

William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse

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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9144-5
  • Pages: 392
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: June 2014
  • BIC Category: Literature, Ireland, European history, HISTORY / Europe / Ireland, Humanities / British & Irish history

Description

This is a revealing account of the family life and achievements of the Third Earl of Rosse, a hereditary peer and resident landlord at Birr Castle, County Offaly, in nineteenth-century Ireland, before, during and after the devastating famine of the 1840s. He was a remarkable engineer, who built enormous telescopes in the cloudy middle of Ireland. The book gives details, in an attractive non-technical style which requires no previous scientific knowledge, of his engineering initiatives and the astronomical results, but also reveals much more about the man and his contributions - locally in the town and county around Birr, in political and other functions in an Ireland administered by the Protestant Ascendancy, in the development and activities of the Royal Society, of which he was President from 1848-54, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The Countess of Rosse, who receives full acknowledgement in the book, was a woman of many talents, among which was her pioneering work in photography, and the book includes reproductions of her artistic exposures, and many other attractive illustrations.

Reviews

'exceptional book, which is an invaluable, eclectic collection of ten scholarly articles... The book covers every aspect of William Parson's life, and those of many of his close collaborators, not least of who was his wife Mary.', Jonathan Maxwell, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, Book Review, 2014|The 7th Earl and his wife have worked tirelessly to preserve the heritage of Birr Castle. His ancestor's great telescope has been repaired, a Science Centre established and excellent facilities provided for the public (whom the 3rd Earl already made welcome in his own time). An observatory for radioastonomy has been opened within the demesne, placing it once again at the frontier of cosmology.
Surely this is a perfect time to publish a comprehensive account of the life and times of William Parsons, with distinguished contributions from various hands. They view him from every angle, scientific, political and personal, together with his talented wife and children. A masterful chapter by Wolfgang Steinecke places Parsons very precisely in the progress of the great debate on nebular theories.
, Denis Weaire, Trinity College Dublin, Irish Times (Weekend Review), 25 April 2015|There are fascinating stories here, and much detailed history, well referenced for the scholar. The illustrations, many of them photographs by Mary, are excellent....I have no hesitation in recommending it highly., Peredur Williams, The Observatory magazine Vol 135, No 1247, August 2015, 1 August 2015

'This book is a fascinating read, providing a full account of the life of William Parsons. The separate essays allow for chapters to be read and enjoyed individually, depending on the interests of the reader. It has been very well compiled and edited by Charles Mollan and will appeal to a wide audience, from those interested in deep-sky observation to those keen on Irish scientific history.'
Matthew Doyle, Astronomy Ireland, June 2016

Editor

Charles Mollan is a retired science administrator, editor and publisher, and a historian of Irish science

Contents

Preface - Daniel McDowell
Introduction - Charles Mollan
Succession of the Parsons Family at Birr
1. History of the Parsons family and Birr Castle - The Earl and Countess of Rosse
2. Origin of the 3rd Earl's interest in astronomy - Trevor Weekes
3. Mary, Countess of Rosse (1813-85) - Daniel McDowell, Alison, Countess of Rosse, and David Davison
4. William Parsons' influence on the town and community of Birr - Margaret Hogan
5. Negotiating 'a difficult sectarian terrain': The public life and political opinions of the 3rd Earl of Rosse - Andrew Shields
6. A Consummate Engineer - Charles Mollan
7. Birr Castle observations of non-stellar objects and the development of nebular theories - Wolfgang Steinicke
8. William Parsons and the Irish nineteenth-century tradition of independent astronomical research - Allan Chapman
9. 'A presiding influence': The relations of the 3rd Earl of Rosse with scientific institutions in Britain and Ireland - Simon Schaffer
10. The 3rd Earl of Rosse: An assessment - Trevor Weekes
Select bibliography
Index

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