BAS Heritage

Admiral William Henry Smyth

Admiral William Henry Smyth was born in 1788 and established a private observatory in The Crescent. He led the trend of amateur observers discovering the sky.

He was reknowned for his book “Cycle of Celestial Objects” an original copy of which is kept in Bedford public library.

He died in 1865, and his telescope is held by the London Science Museum

Mare Smythii

Thomas Gwyn Empy Elger

Thomas Elger

Charles Piazzi Smyth

Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819 – 1900) was born into a great family, his Father being the famous Admiral. Educated at Bedford School, he became Astronomer Royal for Scotland. He was one of the first observers to appreciate using mountains as clear observing sites, launching an astronomical expedition to Mt. Teide in Tenerife.

His great observational skills were however somewhat tarnished by his later obsession with the significance of the Great Pyramids.


Sir Thomas Maclear

Thomas Maclear (1794 – 1879) was born in Ireland in 1794. He became House Surgeon at Bedford Infirmary and became a great friend of Admiral Smyth. He set up a family practice in Biggleswade High Street establishing a small observatory in the same town.

Maclear became HM Astronomer at The Cape in 1860, employing Piazzi Smyth as his assistant between 1835 and 1845, and was reknowned for making very accurate measurements of the sky


Hester Periam Hawkins

We’d really like more information about Ms Hawkins – if you think you can help, please get in touch

Volunteers Needed!!

Are you able to help research into the lives of Bedford’s famous sons or daughters? We would really appreciate any help members could give to help fill out the histories of Smyth, Elger, Piazzi Smyth, Maclear and Hester Periam Hawkins

If you’d like to get involved, please contact any member of the committee