Chambers, George Frederick 1841 - 1915

English; British

(1841-1915), astronomer

George Frederick Chambers was born on the 18 October 1841 at Upton-on-Severn near Worcester and was described as one of Britain’s leading amateur astronomers for over 50 years by the Journal of the British Astronomical Association in his obituary. He published his first book at the age of 19 in 1861 and wrote nearly a dozen books on astronomy, contributing scores of articles to journals and newspapers also.

His uncle Frederick Brodie was an enthusiastic amateur astronomer and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, having a private observatory with equipped with a 6.4 inch (160 mm) Merz refractor in Eastbourne, where Chambers was educated. Here, the foundations were laid for his life-long love of astronomy. In 1857 Chambers moved to London to study engineering. Chambers’ ‘A Handbook of Descriptive and Practical Astronomy’, published in 1861, met with success and sold out.

He transferred to the study of law and was called to the Bar in 1868 and became a Parliamentary barrister. Marrying in 1867 and with five daughters, Chambers moved back to Eastbourne where they remained until 1902. Here he built his own home, Northfield Grange, including a private observatory equipped with a 4-inch (100 mm) Cooke refractor and later with a 6-inch (150 mm) one by Grubb. Chambers was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1864 and served on the council between 1886 and 1887. On the formation of the British Astronomical Association in 1890, Chambers was one of the original members, serving on the council from 1893 until his death. He made around 70 contributions to the British Astronomical Association Journal.

In 1891 Chambers published Pictorial Astronomy an illustrated volume, reissued in 1904 under the title of Astronomy for General Readers. Chambers then wrote a series of short works on astronomy, sub-titled ‘Simply told for General Readers.’ These were The Story of the Solar System and The Story of the Stars (both 1895), The Story of the Weather (1897) and The Story of Eclipses (1899). In 1909, he published The Story of Comets, anticipating the return of Halley’s Comet in 1910. He died in Sydenham on 24 May 1915.