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Astronomical Interest at Ipswich & District Field Club

The Ipswich & District Field Club (IDFC) formed in 1903. In 1924, it amalgamated with the Ipswich Scientific Society to form the Ipswich & District Natural History Society (IDNHS). The following material held in Suffolk Record Office describes astronomical interest at IDFC prior to the formation of IDNHS.

Holding GC444/1/4, IDFC Minute Book 1903-1913

04 March 1911. At the ordinary meeting held in the Museum Lecture Room on March 4 1911 Mr A J Hamblin, Hon Sec of the Ipswich Literary Society delivered a very interesting paper, illustrated with slides, on "The Planet Mars". The lecturer began by giving a description of the solar system of which Mars is an important member. He explained that this planet was a centre of astronomic excitement every fifteen years and it was at these times that all the telescopic power of the world was directed at him. He went on to give a description of the course of the planet through the solar system, and also the principle facts connected with it. Regarding the question "Is Mars inhabited?", the lecturer referred to the so-called canals that have been seen on the planet. He concluded by referring to the progress of recent investigation and expected that a good deal would be learned the next time Mars came near to us. On the proposition of Mr Rowley Elliston, seconded by Mr Padfield, a hearty vote of thanks was passed to Mr Hamblin [1] for his lecture. [A press cutting is attached.]

Holding GC444/1/5, IDFC Minute Book 1913-1924

14 February 1914. At the ordinary meeting held in the Museum Lecture Room on February 14 1914 Mr Herbert Wright delivered a lecture entitled "The Birth of the World - and Before". In the course of his very interesting lecture the speaker held to the "Nebular Hypothesis" which maintained that the planets originated from hydrogen gas. He said Astronomy could not forward actual proofs but dealt in a Theory of Probabilities, which by reason of the amount of evidence behind it could almost be regarded as Truths. In elaborating this particular theory he took us back and described step by step the various stages of development the Earth had experienced in the process of its evolution [text unclear] of the Spectroscope, with inconceivably vast distances of both time and space. He spoke of worlds which had existed and died before our present system began to be and of the grandeur of the thought suggested by that, that out of Death came Life. He concluded his lecture by showing several fine slides of various heavenly bodies, and more particularly of the better known Nebulae and Star Clusters. In the discussion which ensued Mr Trent and Mr Boswell attacked the Nebular Hypothesis and were in favour of the hypothesis put forward by Lowell and others that the Earth was formed from a swarm of Meteorites.

09 January 1915. At the ordinary meeting held in the Museum Lecture Room on January 9 1915 Mr H C Trent, BSc [2] lectured on "Through a 3-inch Telescope". Mr Trent first of all explained the mechanism of the telescope, also the limitations of an instrument of the size mentioned. Following this explanation Mr Trent brought under review and illustrated with lantern slides, first the Moon, then the Sun, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. He also showed some very interesting photographs of Comets, Constellations and Double Stars, all of which were greatly appreciated.

04 March 1916. At the ordinary meeting held in the Museum Lecture Room on March 4 1916 Miss A Grace Cook FRAS rendered an interesting and instructive lecture upon Astronomy entitled "The Sun's Family". In turn each planet in our solar system was illustrated and described in a most illuminating manner especial attention also being given to the satellites of the different worlds. Our own attendant the Moon came in for considerable notice and some fine slides were exhibited of it, one especially showing long rays or tracks which radiate from certain craters, the cause of which is at present unknown. Meteors and Comets were also briefly dealt with. An interesting debate followed. On the proposition of Lieutenant Pilkington Rogers a hearty vote of thanks was unanimously passed to the lecturer who briefly responded. There were 52 members and friends present and the meeting closed at 9.35pm.

27 January 1917. The Thirteenth Annual General Meeting held in the Museum Lecture Room on January 27 1917 terminated with a most interesting lecture delivered by the President [Mr S A Notcutt] upon the spectroscope. With the aid of experiments of a novel kind the lecturer demonstrated the nature of this wonderful instrument and the uses to which it had been put by Astronomers.

09 November 1918. At the ordinary meeting held in the Museum Lecture Room on November 9 1918 Miss A Grace Cook FRAS delivered a lecture of great interest, the subject being "Some Astronomical Discoveries". Starting with the discoveries of Herschel the lecturer went on to speak of some of the later discoveries mentioning that the planets Uranus and Neptune had been seen and mistaken for stars long before their true nature was detected. The history and constitution of "Runaway", "Variable" and "Novae" or "Guest" stars was dwelt on, the account of Nova Aquilae the bright new star seen last June, of which Miss Cook was herself the discoverer, being of particular interest. Discoveries by photography, and the use of the camera in modern observatories were discussed; the difference between ancient and modern methods of work being emphasised by the use of lantern slides showing old astronomical drawings and also the most up-to-date photographs of stellar objects. In the discussion which followed, Mr S A Notcutt, another early observer of the new star last June, took part; and in conclusion a vote of thanks was accorded Miss Cook upon the proposition of Mr R Stanley Lewis and seconded by Miss Hubbard.

10 December 1921. At the ordinary meeting held at the Museum on December 10 1921 the President welcomed the lecturer for the evening Mr F J Webb who then gave his lantern lecture on "The Spectroscope in Astronomy". This dealt with (a) The Spectroscope (b) Fraunhofer Lines and Spectra (c) Spectra of the Stars and (d) The Motion of the Stars. The lantern was the lecturer's own and the means of showing such slides caused considerable interest. At the close, several questions were asked and answered, and the evening was brought to a close by a vote of thanks to the lecturer and to the joint operators. This was proposed by Miss Debenham and seconded by Mr Ogle.

Holding GC444/6/1, IDFC Journals 1908-21

Vol 4, October 1913, page 3. Fixture List 1911, March 4, Lecture: "The Planet Mars", Mr A J Hamblin.

Vol 5, part 1, November 1917, page iii. Fixture List 1915, January 9, Lecture: "Through a 3-inch Telescope", Mr H C Trent, BSc.
page iv. Fixture List 1916, March 4, Lecture: "The Sun's Family", Miss A Grace Cook, FRAS.

Vol 6, June 1921, page iii. Fixture List 1918, November 9, Lecture: "Some Astronomical Discoveries", Miss A Grace Cook, FRAS.


[1] Alfred John Hamblin (1864 - 27 November 1945) was a journalist.
[2] Hubert Charles Trent (1883-1970) was an elementary school teacher living at 83 Foxhall Road, Ipswich. He was a BAA member on D J Fulcher's list.

Bill Barton, FRAS