Isaac Roberts


October 28, 2021

Isaac Roberts (January 27, 1829 - July 17, 1904) [1] was a wealthy industrialist and businessman from Wales, UK, best known as a pioneering amateur astronomer in the field of astrophotography. He was a member of the Liverpool Astronomical Society and a fellow of the Geological Society of London. Roberts was also awarded the Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal in 1895.


Roberts was born in Groes, Denbighshire, Wales on January 27, 1829. His father William Roberts was a farmer here. Although he spent some years of his childhood there, he later settled in Liverpool, where he became an apprentice at John Johnson & Son Company (later to become Johnson and Robinson), a mechanical engineering firm, for 7 years to as of November 12, 1844. He became a partner in 1847 and supplemented his work with night school. When Peter Robinson died in 1855, Roberts became manager of the firm, and on the death of the other partner, John Johnson, he took over the contracts and affairs of the firm. He began working in construction in 1859, associating with Peter Robinson Jr. in 1862. He was very successful in his activity, becoming one of the best engineers in the region. Isaac Roberts married Ellen Anne in 1875, becoming Anthony Cartmell's son-in-law. In 1878, Roberts acquired a 7-inch refracting telescope that he used from his home in Rock Ferry, Birkenhead. Although in the beginning he only used it for visual observation, he began to explore star photography, which would become his strong suit years later. In 1883 he began his experiments with stellar photography, initially using lenses with apertures varying from 3 8 {\ displaystyle {\ begin {matrix} {\ frac {3} {8}} \ end {matrix}}} to 8 inches. Roberts was pleased with the results so he ordered a 20-inch refracting telescope. He took the pictures directly at the focal length, which was 100 inches, to avoid the loss of light that would occur if he had used a second mirror. Between 1885 and 1890 Roberts built an observatory at Crowborough, Sussex, England, where he housed his telescopes. This allowed him to make considerable progress in the then nascent field of astronomical photography. In January 1886, Roberts was running his astronomical base in Liverpool, and had taken 200 photographs of stars, in addition to the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda galaxy, and the Pleiades. He died suddenly in 1904 at the age of 75, widowing his then-wife Dorothea Klumpke. He was cremated and his ashes were for 5 years in Crowborough, later being interred in Flaybrick Hill Cemetery. Roberts was a patriot of his native Wales, using the Welsh language throughout his life. He left a substantial amount of money to Cardiff University, Bangor University and the University of Liverpool. His epitaph read: "In memory of Isaac Roberts, fellow of the Royal Society, one of the sons of England, pioneer in the domain of celestial photography. Born in Groes, near Denbigh on January 27, 1829, died at Starfield, Crowboro, Sussex , July 17, 1904, who spent his whole life in search of Truth and seeking the happiness of others. Heaven is in us. This stone is erected with the devoted love of his widow Dorothea Roberts, born Klumpke. " As for his religious views, he considered himself an agnostic. [2]


Some distant space objects were too faint to be seen in a normal telescope.

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