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Insight into marine science
Observatory history

John Hartnup Junior
John Hartnup was born at Somerset House, in the apartments of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1841. At that time his father, John Hartnup was the Assistant Secretary, but was appointed Astronomer to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and Director of Liverpool Observatory. He was educated at The Royal Institution School, Liverpool and at a private academy in Chester. It would appear that his scientific training was under the care and supervision of his father at the Liverpool Observatory, and at the age of 21 he was appointed as his father's assistant.

In 1888, some 25 years after the Liverpool Observatory had relocated to Bidston Hill on the Wirral John Hartnup senior retired and was succeeded by his son as Director.

John Hartnup junior continued with the work of testing chronometers, which his father had pioneered. Both father and son had been advising the US Naval Observatory in Washington, and Kew on this work, and by 1889 these observatories had also set up chronometer testing facilities.

As more meteorological enquiries were received, more observations were made each day. They were made at 0800hrs, 0900hrs, 1200hrs, 1500hrs, 1800hrs and 2100hrs. Telegrams containing summaries of the previous day's weather were sent to the Meteorological Office and the Office of the Marine Surveyor to the Board. They were sent weekly to the Medical Officers of Health for both Liverpool and Birkenhead.

John Hartnup continued with the astronomical work begun by his father and was a prominent member of Liverpool Astronomical Society where he was vice-president for a while. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in February 1886.

On April 21 1892, at the age of 51, John Hartnup was killed when he had the misfortune to fall from the roof of the Observatory whilst making meteorological observations.

John Hartnup's most valuable contributions to science were his papers on chronometrical management. Unfortunately he is most remembered for his untimely and violent death.


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