DUNLOP, James (1793-1848)

DUNLOP, James (1793-1848)
son of John Dunlop, a weaver, was born at Dalry, Scotland, on 31 October 1793. He was educated at a school at Dalry and went to work at a thread factory at Beith when he was 14. He also attended a night-school kept by a man named Gardiner. When he was 17 he made a telescope for himself and began to be interested in astronomy. In 1820 he made the acquaintance of Sir Thomas Brisbane (q.v.), who appointed him as second scientific assistant when he went to Sydney as governor in 1821. Brisbane soon after his arrival built an observatory at Parramatta and Dunlop was employed there. Karl Rümker (q.v.) who had been first assistant left the observatory in 1823, and Dunlop was put in charge of it. He was not a trained astronomer, but he had learned much from Rümker and his employer, and between June 1823 and February 1826 he made 40,000 observations and catalogued 7385 stars. At the beginning of March he left the observatory and continued working at his own home, Brisbane having sold his instruments to the government when he left Australia in December 1825. In May 1826 Rümker returned to the observatory and seven months later was appointed government astronomer. Dunlop left Sydney for Scotland in February 1827 and was employed for four years at the observatory of Sir Thomas Brisbane. He had done very good work as an observer in New South Wales, and was associated with Rümker in the discovery of Encke's comet at Parramatta in June 1822. He was later to be the first in Great Britain to rediscover this comet on 26 October 1829. He had been awarded the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society of London on 8 February 1828. Sir John Herschel when making the presentation spoke in the highest terms of the value of the work done by Dunlop in New South Wales. In April 1831 Dunlop was appointed superintendent of the government observatory at Parramatta in succession to Rümker at a salary of £300 a year. He arrived at Sydney on 6 November 1831 and found the observatory in a deplorable condition, rain had come in, plaster from the roof had fallen down, and many records were destroyed. Dunlop succeeded in getting the building repaired and started on his work with energy, but about 1835 his health began to fail, he had no assistant, and the building having been attacked by white ants fell gradually into decay. In August 1847 he resigned his position, and went to live on his farm on Brisbane Water, an arm of Broken Bay. He died on 22 September 1848. In 1816 he married his cousin Jean Service who survived him. In addition to the medal of the Royal Astronomical Society Dunlop was awarded medals for his work by the King of Denmark in 1833, and the Institut Royal de France in 1835. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, Edinburgh, in 1832. Papers on, and references to the work of Dunlop, will be found in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, in the Edinburgh Journal of Science, and in the Transactions of the Royal Society between the years 1823 and 1839.
John Service, A Biographical Sketch of James Dunlop appended to his Third Notandum being the Literary Recreations of Laird Canticarl; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. XI, XII, XV, XVI, XIX, XXIV, XXV; H. C. Russell, Proceedings Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, vol. I, p. 5.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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