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Rich banker becomes Astronomer
- Francis Baily lived in the late 18th
century. He was the son of a banker from Newbury,
though most of his family came from Thatcham.
- As a young man he visited parts of America where
there were no Europeans and only Native Americans lived. He was nearly
shipwrecked twice & had great adventures.
- Francis became a stockbroker, dealing in stocks
and shares in London. He became very rich and wrote lots of books about money.
- He was fascinated by astronomy (the study of the
stars & planets) & wrote lots of books about this too. He was
especially interested in Solar eclipses (when the Moon passes in front of the
Sun & it all goes dark).
- He was one of the members who started the
'Astronomical Society' & wrote its rules. This is a very famous society.
- At 51, Baily retired from business so that he
could concentrate on his astronomy.
- He lived in St. Pancras (Middlesex) & spent a
very long time correcting people's catalogues of stars & doing lots of
experiments. The most difficult one was to work out the weight of the Earth.
- He still liked to watch eclipses. He is best
known for taking note of how, during an eclipse, the Sun's crescent of light
breaks up into small 'beads' of light. This is known as 'Baily's Beads'.
- In 1841, Baily was knocked down by a horse &
rider. His health never recovered. He died 3 years later & was buried in
the family vault under Thatcham Church.