The least known participant in the Gotha meeting in 1798: George Butler


Wolfgang R. Dick, Potsdam, Peter Brosche, Daun, Dieter Gerdes, Lilienthal



In a letter to Schedius Zach mentioned a certain »Buttler from Cambridge« as one of the participants in the first astronomical meeting held in Gotha in 1798, but up to now nothing was known about this person. There is now evidence that George Butler (1774-1853), then a young fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, participated in the meeting. Butler gratuated M.A. in 1797 and took his B.D. and D.D. in 1804 and 1805. He is reported to have spoken German, French and Italian with correctness and fluency. In the summer of 1798 he went on a tour of the Continent, visiting primarily the German-speaking territories. On September 9 Butler visited Georg Christoph Lichtenberg in Göttingen, and on September 19 he arrived in Weimar, where he met Goethe, Herder and others. Possibly he came to Göttingen from Gotha, where the astronomical meeting lasted until the end of August.

Butler, later Headmaster of Harrow School and Dean of Peterborough, was elected FRS on May 20, 1819. He became an original member of the Royal Astronomical Society during its first »proper« meeting on February 8, 1820. Butler had great mathematical attainments and was practically versed in chemistry and other branches of physical science. Seemingly he was not very active in astronomy.


Bibliographical details:

Wolfgang R. Dick, Peter Brosche, Dieter Gerdes: The least known participant in the Gotha meeting in 1798: George Butler. In: Peter Brosche, Wolfgang R. Dick, Oliver Schwarz, Roland Wielen (Eds.): The Message of the Angles - Astrometry from 1798 to 1998. Proceedings of the International Spring Meeting of the Astronomische Gesellschaft, Gotha, May 11-15, 1998. (Acta Historica Astronomiae ; 3). Thun ; Frankfurt am Main : Deutsch, 1998, p. 73-75.