William Harkness

William Harkness (1837-1903) was an astronomer, born at Ecclefechan, Scotland, a son of James Harkness, (1803-78). He was educated at Lafayette College (1854-56), graduated from the University of Rochester (1858), and studied medicine in New York City. He served as a surgeon in the Union armies during part of the American Civil War. From 1862 to 1865 he was an aid in the United States Naval Observatory and then, after service on the monitor Monadnock {1}(1865-66), was employed in the Hydrographic Office. During the eclipse of August, 1869, he discovered the coronal line K 1474. Three years later he was made a member of the Transit of Venus Commission, had charge of the party at Hobart, Tasmania, in 1879, and at Washington in 1882, when he became the executive officer. His most memorable accomplishments are related to the construction of telescopes, his theory of the focal curve of achromatic telescopes, and on his invention of the spherometer, caliper, and other astronomical instruments. He was astronomical director of the Naval Observatory (1894-99) and director of the Nautical Almanac (1897-99). He retired two days after attaining the relative rank of rear admiral (December, 1899). He was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1893). Of his works, The Solar Parallax and its Related Constants (1891) is the most important.


* Chasing Venus, Observing the Transits of Venus Smithsonian Institution Libraries


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