Pierre Paul Henry & Mathieu Prosper Henry

by catcher Sunday, July 22, 2012 8:13 AM

'The Inseparable Brothers'

Pierre Paul Henry
Born: 21st August 1848, Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Lorraine, France
Died: 4th January 1905, Montrouge, Paris, France

Mathieu Prosper Henry
Born: 10th December 1849, Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Lorraine, France
Died: 25th July 1903; Pralognan, Rhône-Alpes, France

The Henry Brothers – Pierre Paul and Mathieu Prosper, were inseparable all throughout their lives. Together they grew up to be two of the greatest Astrophotographers of all time and were the first to take truly successful photographs of the Planets. They also created some of the finest telescopes ever made, which were without doubt the equal of those of the legendary Alvan Clark & Sons. Their pioneering experiments in using photography to create star charts was a major contributory factor in persuading Amedee Mouchez to inaugurate the ill fated ‘Carte du Ciel’ project.

Pierre Paul Henry (1848-1905) and his younger brother Mathieu Prosper Henry (1849-1903), lived in the world as though they were just a single person. Everything they did in life, they did together; they went to the same school, they both trained as opticians, they both left to live in Paris, they both became astronomers and both got jobs at the Paris Observatory – where they both worked together.

Pierre Jean Octave Callandreau (1852–1904), a colleague of theirs at the Paris Observatory wrote of them:

“So united was their friendship and collaboration that at the Observatory we seemed to see but one person; so forgetful were they of giving prominence to their respective merits that it is impossible to decide what may belong to each of their common work.”

Together their achievements made them famous the world over, and in France they could do no wrong:

  • They took the first successful photographs of the Planets when they imaged Jupiter and Saturn in 1886;
  • They provided the optics for the first example of Maurice Loewy’s (1833-1907) Equatorial Coude Refractor - a new and radical telescope design;
  • They took magnificent photographs of stars down to the below the 15th magnitude, which convinced the Observatory’s Director Contre-Amiral Amedee Ernest Barthelemy Mouchez (1821-1892) that a complete photographic survey of the heavens was technically possible;
  • At the end of their lives they constructed with the Parisian engineer Paul Gautier (1842-1909) large refracting telescopes for the Nice and Meudon Observatories, which rivaled those built by Alvan Clark & Sons of Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

It was a team of one that the inseparable brothers became two of the truly great pioneers of Astrophotography.

To read more on their life and work read the eBook chapter on Paul Henry & Prosper Henry or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light'.

'La Grande Lunette de Meudon', Double Refractor (32.7/24.4-inch), Henry Brothers: Photograph courtesy of the Paris Observatory

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.