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Crabtree, William

1. Dates
Born: Broughton, Lancashire, June 1610 He was baptized on 29 June.
Died: Broughton, late July 1644
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 34
2. Father
Occupation: Peasant/Small Farmer
John Crabtree is described as a yeoman farmer of comfortable means.
"Comfortable means" must surely mean they were prosperous. The grammar school education supports this.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: No University
Manchester Grammar School. No university education. He was self-educated in astronomy.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
I found nothing at all about his religion, and thus put him down as Anglican.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy
Crabtree made precise observations, which convinced him of the accuracy of the Rudolphine Tables; he became one of the early converts to Kepler's system. He converted the tables to decimal form. By observation he established the latitude of Manchester.
He was one of the earliest Englishmen to study the sunspots. He collaborated with Horrock's work on the moon.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Merchant
Secondary: Engineering
Clothier or merchant in Manchester, from 1630 or so. He appears to have become a man of some substance.
Crabtree was occasionally employed as a land surveyor.
8. Patronage
Type: None
Prosperous himself and not seeking anything more, Crabtree was not the sort who needed patronage. In the accounts of him there is nothing that sounds like patronage at all.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Cartography, Instruments
Crabtree was occasionally employed as a surveyer, and a map of the estate of Sir Humphrey Booth that he did in 1637 survives.
He recognized the importance of instruments in refining observational accuracy, and his correspondence with Gascoigne is filled with discussions of this issue. The correspondence refers to clocks, telescopes, micrometers, and related pieces. Like Horrocks and Gascoigne, he apparently made his own telescopes and other instruments (which means, for parts other than lenses, that he employed local craftsmen to make things to his specifications).
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Informal Connections: Correspondence with J.Horrocks, Samuel Foster, W. Gasciogne and Christopher Towneley.
Associaton with Horrocks.
  1. William Derham, "Observations upon the Spots . . . upon the Sun," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 27 (1711), 280-90; "Extracts from Mr. Gascoigne's and Mr. Crabtree's Letters," ibid., 30 (1717), 603-10.
  2. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-1950), 4, 1356-7. E.C. Watson, "An Interesting Tercenterary," Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 51 (1939), 305-14.
  3. Almost entirely a long quotation from the English translation of Horrocks' Venus in sole visa.
  4. Allan Chapman, Three North Country Astronomers, (Manchester, 1982). This is the best source I have found.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. John E. Bailey, "Jeremich Horrocks and William Crabtree, Observers of the Transit of Venus," Palatine Notebook, 2 (1882), 253-66, and 3 (1883), 17, 52.
  2. A.B. Whatton, "A Memoir of His Life and Labours," in Jeremiah Horrocks, The Transit of Venus across the Sun, tr. Whatton, (London, 1859).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

1995 Al Van Helden
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