Macpherson, Hector Copland 1888 - 1956

Scottish; British

(1888-1956), Church of Scotland minister, astronomer

Hector Macpherson was born in Edinburgh on 1 April 1888. Educated at home due to a serious childhood illness until he went to university. His father, encouraged his interest in astronomy and bought him books by Agnes Giberne, Sir Robert Ball and Proctor’s ‘Half Hour at the Telescope.’

In October 1901, he was given a 1-inch aperture telescope and later set up a small observatory in his parent’s garden and beginning at the age of 13 his lifelong interest in astronomy. His astronomical writing was encouraged by his father and at age 14 wrote an article entitled ‘Is Mars Inhabited?’ and published in the North British Advertiser. This was followed by a series of short biographies of living astronomers in the same paper. He published his first book, Astronomers of Today and their Work, aged 17. After the encouragement and advise of his father, he corresponded with all his subjects, obtaining biographical details from them. These included Camille Flammarion, Agnes Clerke, Percival Lowell and Max Wolf. Macpherson wrote 10 books on astronomy throughout his life.

His chosen career, however, was not astronomy. At Edinburgh University he studied theology and trained at New College for the United Free Church Ministry. He served the first five years of his ministry in Ayrshire and in War service. From 1921 until his death 1956 he was Minister in the Guthrie Memorial Church in Edinburgh. In 1929 he became a Minister for the Church of Scotland.

In 1911 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, having been proposed by Sir Frank Dyson while he was Astronomer Royal for Scotland. In addition, he was a distinguished historian and recognised expert on the seventeenth century Scottish Covenanter Movement, the subject of a major study that earned him a PhD from Edinburgh University in 1923 and published as a book. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1919. He died in Edinburgh on 19 May 1956.