Maunder, Edward Walter 1851 - 1928

English; British

(1851-1928), Astronomer

Edward Walter Maunder was born in London on 12 April 1851. Maunder attended the school attached to University College, London, and took some additional courses at King’s College there. He worked briefly in a London bank before taking the first examination ever given by the British Civil Service Commission for the post of photographic and spectroscopic assistant in the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Maunder worked at Greenwich for forty years, largely under the direction of W. H. M. Christie; the primary task assigned to him was the photographic observation of the sun and the subsequent measurement of sunspots, taken first on wet plates and later on dry.

With a spectroscope attached to the observatory’s great equatorial, Maunder observed solar prominences, the radial motion of stars, and the spectra of planets, comets, novae, and nebulae. Maunder also travelled outside England to observe six solar eclipses, including the West Indies, Mauritius, Canada and India.

After his election as fellow in 1875, Maunder took an active part in the affairs of the Royal Astronomical Society, serving as council member for many years and secretary from 1892 to 1897. In 1890, largely through the efforts of Maunder and his brother Thomas Frid Maunder, the British Astronomical Association was founded. Its purposes were twofold: “To meet the wished and needs of those who find the subscription of the R.A.S. too high or its papers too advanced, or who are, in the case of ladies, practically excluded from becoming Fellows” and “to afford a means of direction and organization in the work of observation to amateur astronomers.” Maunder served as president in 1894–1896 and as director at various times of the Mars section, the solar section, and the coloured star section. Previously, from 1881 to 1887, he had edited Observatory, the journal founded by Christie.

Maunders married twice and his second wife, whom he married in 1895, was Annie S. D. Russell, a competent and active astronomer. The literary output of Maunder and his wife was prodigious. The results of their astronomical observations were communicated primarily to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Journal of the British Astronomical Association. Nature and Knowledge also contained frequent articles by the Maunders. He died in London on 21 March 1928.