Andrew Ainslie Common

by catcher Sunday, June 3, 2012 2:14 AM

 'The Miller'

Born: 7th of August 1841, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England.
Died: 2nd of June 1903, Ealing, Middlesex, England

Andrew Ainslie Common was without doubt one of the great pioneers of Astrophotography. His chief claim to fame lies, not particularly because of the photographs he took, but in the techniques and procedures he used to capture them, and even more importantly in the telescopes he constructed and designed specifically for Deep Space Astrophotography.

 Two of his telescopes are still in operation today, the 36-inch ‘Crossley’ reflector at the Lick Observatory in California and the 60-inch ‘Rockefeller’ reflector at the Boyden Observatory, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

He believed that the telescopes of the future should be silvered mirrored reflectors and not the ‘Great Refractors’ which at that time, were to be found under the domes all the ‘Great Observatories’ of the world. Furthermore, if they were to be of any use to astronomers, they should be on a stable platform of ‘such, a construction of mounting as to give the greatest mount of steadiness with the least amount of motion’; provided with a ‘Driving clock. Circles to find or identify an object and motions taken to eye end’ and most important of all ‘A suitable locality for the erection of the telescope’.

His start in life was one borne of fear apprehension; whether from the real possibility of an early death from the cholera which plagued the streets where he lived; or the prospect of financial hardship brought on by his father’s insolvency. As a consequence of the early death of his father when he barely ten years old, his education was cut short and he was sent out into the world to earn a living as a Miller at his uncle’s flour mill in Gayton, Norfolk. It was here that he became a strong man in all senses, and liked trying himself to the limit’ in both physique and in character, learning be never afraid of hardship or the thought of hard work.

His legacy lives on today for two of the great reflecting telescopes he constructed over a century ago are still in use and are helping us to understand the universe in which Andrew Common first gazed upon so long ago. Let us now turn the pages of history back over 150 years to a world far different from the one fate decreed Andrew Ainslie Common would follow...

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on Andrew Ainslie Common: or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light'.

Andrew Ainslie Common's 60-inch reflector, Harvard College Observatory, c1905

Buy the eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

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Stefan Hughes began his career as a professional astronomer, gaining a 1st Class Honours degree in Astronomy from the University of Leicester in 1974 and his PhD four years later on the 'Resonance Orbits of Artificial Satellites due to Lunisolar Perturbations', which was published as a series of papers in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. After graduating he became a Research fellow in Astronomy, followed by a spell as a lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Queen Mary College, London. Then came a ten year long career as an IT Consultant. In 'mid life' he spent several years retraining as a Genealogist, Record Agent and Architectural Historian, which he practiced for a number of years before moving to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where for the past ten years he has been imaging the heavens, as well as researching and writing the 'Catchers of the Light' - A History of Astrophotography.