David Gill

by catcher Monday, July 23, 2012 10:51 AM

'The Surveyor'


Born: 12th June 1843, Aberdeen, Scotland
Died: 24th January 1914, Kensington, London, England

Sir David Gill was one of the great astronomers of the late nineteenth century, and was universally recognized as such. He made significant contributions to many areas of astronomy, including the measurement of the sun’s distance and the completion of a successful photographic survey of stars in the southern hemisphere, known as the Cape Photographic Durchmusterung or CPD, which listed the positions and magnitudes for 454,875 stars down to about magnitude 10.2 in the Southern Hemisphere.

David Gill was a surveyor not of buildings or land but of the heavens.
Although originally destined to become a clock maker like his father, fate chose otherwise. Ironically it was through clocks that

David Gill became interested in Astronomy, a hobby which would eventually lead to a career that lasted fifty years, during which time he was to become one of the great astronomers of his age.

All throughout his astronomical career David Gill was involved in measuring and surveying.

At first it was a desire to set up an accurate time service for his native city of Aberdeen. Then he began to make plans to measure the distance of nearby stars. This was followed shortly by an expedition to Ascension Island to determine the distance of the planet Mars and by implication the distance of the Sun from the Earth.

However it was his great photographic survey of the stars in the southern hemisphere – the ‘Cape Photographic Durchmusterung’ that became his greatest legacy to Astrophotography and Astronomy in general.

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on David Gill or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light'.

9-inch CPD 'Photographic Refractor', Cape of Good Hope Observatory, c1886

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.