John Birmingham (1814-1884)

John Birmingham was an only child and died a bachelor, his house was left to ruin and all that remains of his possessions is his telescope. In his lifetime however he was well known and well respected. John Birmingham was not only an astronomer, but a geologist, a linguist and poet as well. On 12 May 1866 he discovered the red variable star, T Corona Borealis. He wrote to various people announcing his discovery to which he received a range of responses. The Times newspaper threw away his letter without replying. William Huggins however, was very interested. He wrote back to tell him he had found his star and observed it using his spectroscope and was sending him his results. John's letter to Huggins and the reply were both subsequently published in the Tuam Herald. Besides his discovery of a star, John also produced a catalogue of 'red stars', which included not only positions but also spectral information for each star, and it was for this work that he was awarded a medal from the Royal Society of Ireland.

John Birmingham was not only an acute observer, he also wrote numerous semi-popular articles on many aspects of astronomy. He was also active in geology and railway surveying. His chief poetic work, 'Anglicania', is a singular mix of lyricism, satire and closely reasoned apologetics.