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Famous Figures


Archbishop Robinson

As an educated and enlightened man Archbishop Richard Robinson resolved to use his wealth and power to found and maintain charitable and educational institutions, particularly in his Primatial City of Armagh. He employed some of the foremost architects of his day: Thomas Cooley, and Francis Johnston, to design buildings and plan his cathedral city.

Dr Eric Lindsay

As Director of Armagh Observatory, the UK and Irelands oldest working observatory, Lindsay wanted to find a novel and exciting way to bring understanding of the galaxy to ordinary people. He spent many years scouring the globe, searching for funds to build the Planetarium and trying to persuade people that Armagh was the perfect location for such an ambitious venture. Beginning his campaign during the Second World War it was not until the 1960s that he received the support of the government and local council to finally realise his dream.


Professor Ernst Julius Öpik

Öpik was one of the most outstanding astrophysicists of his generation, with wide-ranging interests in the physical sciences. Among his many pioneering discoveries were: (1) the first computation of the density of a degenerate body, namely the white dwarf 40 Eri B, in 1915; (2) the first accurate determination of the distance of an extragalactic object (Andromeda Nebula) in 1922; (3) the prediction of the existence of a cloud of cometary bodies encircling the Solar System (1932), later known as the "Oort Cloud"; (4) the first composite theoretical models of dwarf stars like the Sun which showed how they evolve into giants (1938); (5) a new theory of the origin of the Ice Ages (1952).

Francis Johnston

Johnston was born in Armagh, Ireland, son of William Johnston, also an architect, and studied architecture. He practiced in Armagh, and then lived in Drogheda from 1786 before moving to Dublin about 1793. In 1805 he was appointed to the Board of Works as an architect. In 1824 he was made president of the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts which had been founded the previous year, and he provided headquarters for the Academy in Lower Abbey Street at his own expense.


Thomas Earnshaw

Although he was principally a watchmaker, he did not shy away from building clocks. When asked by Nevil Maskelyne, he produced a clock for the Armagh Observatory. This clock incorporated Earnshaw's new design of escapement and had a number of novel features, including an airtight case (designed to reduce dust and draughts). It was highly praised by John Thomas Romney Robinson in the 19th century, who at that time believed it to be the most accurate clock in the world. In 1794, its purchase price was £100 and Earnshaw charged £100 to travel with it to Armagh and set it up in the new Observatory.

John Arnold

In this portrait, John Arnold is shown with part of the mechanism for one of his marine chronometers. He vied with Earnshaw for the Board of Longitude prize, and was accused by Earhshaw of copying and patenting Earnshaw's escapement.


Thomas Romney Robinson

When Thomas Romney Robinson was not yet thirteen years old a book of his poems was published by private subscription. The book was entitled, "Juvenile Poems" and was printed by J. Smyth & D. Lyons, High Street, Belfast in 1806.

J. L. E. Dreyer

In 1874 he accepted the position of Assistant to Lord Rosse at Birr where the giant six-foot Leviathan, at that time the largest telescope in the world, was at his disposal. Here he initiated a comprehensive survey of star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. From 1878-1882 he became assistant at Dunsink Observatory before moving to Armagh where he became Director in 1882.


Rev. W. F. A. Ellison

Reverend William Frederick Archdall Ellison FRAS was an Irish clergyman, Hebrew scholar, organist, avid amateur telescope maker, and, from 1918 to 1936, director of Armagh Observatory in Armagh, Northern Ireland. He was the father of Mervyn A. Ellison, the senior professor of the School of Cosmic Physics at Dunsink Observatory from 1958 to 1963.

James Ussher (1581-1656)

James Ussher, was considered one of the greatest scholars and theologians of his time. In his enduring search for knowledge he travelled widely in Britain and Europe, seeking the earliest available manuscripts, buying those he could, and copying others. After his death, his extensive and valuable library, formed the nucleus of the great library of Trinity College, Dublin.

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