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Graham, George

1. Dates
Born: Hethersgill, Cumberland, c. 1674 Hellman says 1673 or 75.
Died: London, 16 Nov. 1751 The gravestone 14 Nov., the Westminster burial record say 16 Nov., if it matters.
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 77
2. Father
Occupation: Peasant/Small Farmer
Also George Graham, a husbandman; he died soon after the birth of our George, who was reared by a brother.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: No University
No university education.
Apprenticed to Henry Aske, a clockmaker in London, 1688- 1695.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
Graham's father was a Quaker, but he was reared by a brother who was not. Although himself conducted his own life in what I might call a Quaker manner, several aspects of it (such as his willingness to take an oath, and his burial in Westminster Abbey) indicate that he was not a Quaker.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Instrumentation
Subordinate: Astronomy, Physics
Graham is known as the preeminent instrument maker of his time, a man of major importance in the development of chronometry.
He was also very knowledeable in astronomy, as he needed to be in order to perfect astronomical instruments. He made observations and published them in the Philosophical Transactions.
Graham was actively involved, intellectually as well as professionally as an instrument maker, in establishing the exact shape of the earth by means of precision clocks. With his measurements (I include measurements in the tropics made with his instruments and instructions) he corrected Newton's figures for the proportional of the earth's axes.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Instruments
Employee, and later partner, of Thomas Tompion, 1695-1713, marrying Tompion's niece.
Succeeded to the business of Tompion as heir by Tompion's will, 1713.
8. Patronage
Types: Merchant, Aristrocrat
Thomas Tompion treated him with utmost kindness as a virtual member of the family, and he eventually succeeded to Tompion's business as his heir. After waffling for some time, I have decided to include this. Since I have not used the category of Artisan under patronage, I will list this under Merchant.
Graham somewhat repeated his own experience with Tompion by giving, in his turn, every encouragement and support to Harrison.
With Tompion he made an "orrery," the original one from which the name comes, for the Earl of Orrery.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Instruments
Orrery, with Tompion. Sorrenson says that Graham invented the orrery, but others deny that this one was even the first, though it was one of the first.
Deadbeat escapement, about 1715.
Mercury compensated pendulum, 1722.
The cylinder escapement for watches, 1725.
8-foot quadrant with vernier, attaining a new level of accuracy, for Halley.
24 1/4-foot zenith sector with a micrometer screw. He later made a 12 1/2 foot instrument of the same sort for Bradley, with which he discovered the aberration of light.
The apparatus used by the French for the measurement of a degree of the meridian in the far north.
Improved micrometer screw for a reflecting telescope, 1727.
He invented a beam caliper with a micrometer screw.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
Informal Connections: He made an Orrery for Earl of Orrery, a great quadrant for Halley, a transit instrument and a great zenith sector for the Royal Observatary, and the apparatus used for the measurement of a degree of the meridian for Académie des Science of France.
Royal Society, 1721-51. Council 1722.
Prominent also in the Clockmakers' Company; Master in 1722.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 8, 314-15. J. Bradley, "An Account of Some Observations Made in London, by Mr.
  2. George Graham, F.R.S. . . . ," Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society, 38 (1733-4), 302-14.
  3. Graham, "The Description and Use of an Instrument for Taking the Latitude of a Place . . . ," ibid., 38, 450-7.
  4. "An Account of a Comparison Lately Made . . . of the Standard of a Yard . . . ," ibid., 42 (1742-3), 541-56.
  5. C. Doris Hellman, "George Graham, Maker of Horological and Astronomical Instruments," Vassar Journal of Undergraduate Studies, 5 (1931), 221-51.
  6. H. Alan Lloyd, "George Graham, Horologist and Astronomer," Horological Journal, 93, no. 1118 (Nov. 1951), 708-17. The article appears to be the best source on Graham's life.
  7. Richard Sorrenson, "Chapter III. George Graham," a chapter in an uncompleted dissertation (when I read it), Princeton University.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. C. Doris Hellman, "George Graham, Maker of Horological and Astronomical Instruments," Popular Astronomy, 39 (1931), 186- 99.
  2. John B. Penfold, "The London Background of George Graham," Antiquarian Horology, 14 (1983), 272-8.
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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