Moon: Notes and Records of the BAA Lunar Section
New Moon journal (1983-2010)
of the BAA Lunar Section
in 1891, the BAA Lunar Section is as old as the British Astronomical
Association itself. Its roots actually go back further in time to the
short-lived but highly energetic Selenographical Society (1878-82),
many of whose members were leading lights in British lunar research
during the late Victorian and Edwardian era.
Lunar Section Directors (plus dates of office)
Gwyn Empy Elger (1891-1896)
L MacDonald (1938-1946)
Percival Wilkins (1946-1956)
A Whitaker (1956-1958)
Alfred Moore (1964-1968)
C Maddison (1968-1971)
A Ringsdore (acting, 1971)
Alfred Moore (1971-1976)
S Ford (1976-1978)
W Amery (1978-1987)
W Foley (1988-1992)
Gwyn Empy Elger (1836-1897)
Gwyn Empy Elger was an English lunar mapper and the first director
of the Lunar Section of the British Astronomical Association (BAA).
He was born in Bedford, where the family had been established for
several generations. His father Thomas Gwyn Elger (1794April 4,
1841) was an architect and builder. Grandfather, father and son
engaged in the town politics, and all held the post of mayor.
studied at University College London and adopted the profession of a
civil engineer. He was engaged in several important works, including
the Metropolitan Railway and the Severn Valley Railway. His surveys
for railway construction in Holstein were put to a stop by the war
with Prussia and Austria in 1864.
afterwards he relinquished the active pursuit of his profession and
devoted himself to scientific studies. He had developed a strong
taste for astronomy already at an early age and erected his first
observatory in Bedford. Elger observed with an 8.5 inch reflector.
His sketches from 1884 to 1896 are now in the possession of the BAA.
He is best known as a careful and indefatigable selenographer, and
for this work his artistic skill eminently qualified him.
is most remembered for his book The Moon: A full Description and Map
of its Principal Physical Features. Published in 1895, its maps are
still highly regarded by lunar observers due to their uncluttered nature.
was member of several astronomical associations, as the Royal
Astronomical Society, the short-lived Selenographical Society and the
British Astronomical Association. Besides his astronomical work, he
was an ardent archaeologist and founded the Bedfordshire Natural
History Society and Field Club.
is remembered by the lunar crater Elger.
Logie MacDonald (1901-1973)
MacDonald was a
Scottish politician who served as secretary and chairman of the West
of Scotland branch of the British Astronomical Association. MacDonald
also served as Director of the Lunar Section of the BAA from
1937-1945, and was particularly noted for a series of 'Studies in
Lunar Statistics' published in the BAA Journal between 1929 and1940.
In these he organized craters into four morphological classes, and
established new relationships for predicting depth and rim height as
a function of diameter. In 1985 the IAU added him as a second honoree
under the name 'Thomas L. McDonald', but it appears he actually
spelled his name 'MacDonald'.
Percival Wilkins (1896-1960)
H. P. Wilkins
in 1938. Image courtesy Eileen Coombes.
Percival Wilkins was a Welsh-born engineer and amateur astronomer.
He was born in Carmarthen, where he received his early education,
then lived near Llanelli prior to moving to England. During the First
World War he served in the Royal Army Corps.
he worked as a mechanical engineer and a civil servant, but he is
most noted for his efforts as an amateur astronomer, particularly as
a selenographer. He was elected to the British Astronomical
Association in 1918 and for a period he was the Director of the Lunar Section.
produced a 100" map of the Moon, which included new names for a
number of features. In 1948 he put forward a request to the IAU that
twenty-two new names be adopted. However he was turned down on the
premise that the features were small or near the limb and already had
letter designations. In 1951 he published a 300" diameter map of
the Moon, considered by some as the culmination of the art of
selenography prior to the space age. He made additional requests to
the IAU in 1952 and 1955, which were turned down. However the
Goodacre and Mee crater names from a 1926 map he had produced did
become part of the lunar nomenclature. He also published a number of
books intended to popularize astronomy, including two works in
collaboration with Sir Patrick Moore. The most notable was his work,
The Moon, which included a scaled-down version of his lunar map.
crater on the Moon is named after him.
and Wilkins, circa 1953, in the courtyard of the Royal Observatory,
Greenwich, pictured by Walter Haas.
Whitaker 'proof reading' an LAC at the LPL in Tucson (from Kopal and Carder)
Below: Whitaker today
Ewen A. Whitaker
succeeded Wilkins as Director, having specialised in lunar study
since the early 1950s. In 1954 he produced the first systematic chart
of the south polar regions. His tenure as Director was regrettably
short since he was invited to America to join Gerard Kuiper's lunar
team, first at Yerkes and then at Arizona, where it became the Lunar
and Planetary Laboratory. Ewen Whitaker went on to become one of the
most significant lunar scientists of the time, working on the
Photographic Lunar Atlas, the Orthographic Atlas of the Moon and the
Rectified Lunar Atlas, all of which were used by NASA in preparation
for the Apollo programme. He also wrote a history of lunar
cartography, Mapping and Naming the Moon (1999). In 1982 he was
awarded the Goodacre Medal.
Fielder in 1960
was a professional scientist, specialising in the geology of the
lunar surface. The author of several major books, including Structure
of the Moon's Surface (1961), Lunar Geology (1965) and Geology and
Physics of the Moon (1972), Fielder advanced a volcanic theory of
crater formation. As Director of the Lunar Section he anticipated the
declining importance of cartographic observation and constructed an
observing programme that concentrated on the distribution of selected
types of formation.
The first studies
of extraterrestrial geology were of the Moon. In the UK, a Lunar
Group funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) was
set up in the Astronomy Department at UCL in 1966, based at the
University of London Observatory at Mill Hill in North London.
However, there was no room for a new group in the observatory itself
and UCL bought a house in nearby Daws Lane to accommodate the group.
This was known as the Observatory Annexe.
At that time,
spacecraft observations of the Moon had just started, providing for
the first time material that could be used by geologists to interpret
the surface of that body. The great debate waged by geologists and
astronomers was about the origin of the craters. Were they formed by
volcanism or impact cratering?
The founders of
the group were Gilbert Fielder, a committed supporter of the volcanic
origin of craters on the Moon, and John Guest, a volcanologist who
was convinced by the new data that the lunar craters were of impact
origin. The results from Apollo Missions left little doubt that lunar
craters were of impact origin and confirmed that the dark maria were
sheets of basaltic lava.
left UCL in 1971 to set up a new group at the University of Lancaster.
to watch The Sky at Night (September 1960) featuring Gilbert Fielder
(from the BBC archive)
Alfred Moore (1923 - present)
Moore during his time as Director
Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, CBE, HonFRS, FRAS was born in Pinner,
England. Known as Patrick Moore, he is an amateur astronomer who has
attained prominent status in astronomy as a writer, researcher, radio
commentator and television presenter of the subject and who is
credited as having done more than any other to raise the profile of
astronomy among the British general public. He was born to Captain
Charles Trachsel Caldwell-Moore MC (died 1947) and Gertrude,
née White (died 1981 aged 94).
is a former president of the British Astronomical Association,
co-founder and former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy,
author of more than 100 books on astronomy, presenter of the longest
running television series (with the same original presenter), The Sky
at Night on the BBC, and a famous figure on British television (such
as being the Gamesmaster). He is well known for his rapid mode of
speech, trademark monocle, poorly fitting blazers, extremely high
trouser line and a fondness for the xylophone.
Dr R. C. Maddison
was a professional astronomer employed in the Department of Physics
of the University of Keele. He assumed the directorship at a
difficult time, when results from Orbiter and other space probes were
altering the nature of amateur lunar observation and the old
cartographical approach was being supplanted by new methodologies.
Ron Maddison recognised the shift that was taking place, and he
undertook a major review of the Section observing programme in order
to ensure that it remained relevant in the years that were to
culminate in the Apollo manned Moon landings.
Ringsdore was a professional violinist who spent much of his life in
Canada. Following his retirement he moved to Surrey and devoted his
time to astronomy, which had long been a strong interest. He set up
an observatory at his home in Ewell, equipping it with a 380mm
reflector, and was a founder member of the Ewell Astronomical
Society. He joined the BAA in 1964 and soon became Secretary of the
Lunar Section. He was the first Editor of the monthly Lunar Section
Circulars when they started in 1965. Following the resignation of Dr
Ron Maddison as Director in 1971, Phil served as Acting Director
until Patrick Moore returned as Director later that year. He was
awarded the Association's Goodacre Medal in 1973.
W Foley (1930-2008)
Peter Foley (left)
lecturer by profession, based in Birmingham, England, Alan Wells is
an amateur railway aficionado and railway model engineer.