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RGO Archives contains:
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RGO 25 Cape Observatory Annals
RGO 26 Cape Astrographic Zones
RGO 27 Cape Mimeograms
RGO 28 The Nautical Almanac
RGO 29 The Astronomical Ephemeris
RGO 3 Papers of James Bradley and Nathaniel Bliss
RGO 30 The Star Almanac for Land Surveyors
RGO 31 The Air Almanac
RGO 32 HMNAO Technical Notes
RGO 33 Separate Publications of HMNAO
RGO 34 HMNAO Journal Reprint Series
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Papers of James Bradley and Nathaniel Bliss

Title Papers of James Bradley and Nathaniel Bliss
Reference GBR/0180/RGO 3
Creator Bradley, James, and Bliss, Nathaniel
Covering Dates 1700–1804
Extent and Medium 43 volumes, 10 folders + 1 envelope; paper
Repository Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives
Content and context

James Bradley (1692-1762) was born in Sherborne, Gloucestershire, and educated at Northleach grammar school and Balliol College, Oxford (B.A., 1714; M.A., 1717). He developed an interest in astronomy under the influence of his uncle James Pound, and assisted him in making observations. Two of Bradley's own observations were published in 'Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society' in 1718, and later that year he became a fellow of the society. He was ordained in 1719, and became Vicar of Bridstow in Monmouthshire.

From 1719 to 1721, Bradley and Pound attempted to determine the parallax of the Sun from observations of Mars at opposition, and Bradley produced new tables for the phenomena of Jupiter's satellites. In 1721 he was appointed to the Savilian Chair of Astronomy at Oxford and resigned his church livings. Following a period of observational work at Kew and Wanstead, he presented a paper to the Royal Society in 1729 announcing the discovery of the 'aberration of light', an apparent shift in the position of stars caused by the movement of the Earth around the sun, and used his theory to calculate the speed of light.

Bradley was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1742. He began a rigorous observing programme in which he continued his research into the aberration of light. In 1748 he published a paper announcing the discovery of the nutation of the Earth, a nodding of the axis of rotation caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon. He was lecturer in experimental philosophy at Oxford, 1729-1760, and a member of the council of the Royal Society, 1752-1762. Bradley died at Chalford, Gloucestershire, on 13 July 1762. His observations were published in two volumes, 1798 and 1805.

Nathaniel Bliss (1700-1764) was born on 28 November 1700. He attended Pembroke College, Oxford (B.A., 1720; M.A., 1723), and became Rector of St Ebbe's, Oxford, in 1736. In 1742 he was appointed Savilian Professor of Geometry and Fellow of the Royal Society. That year he began to correspond with James Bradley, who he later assisted at the Royal Observatory. He replaced Bradley for the observation of the transit of Venus on 6 June 1761, and succeeded him as Astronomer Royal in 1762. Bliss died on 2 September 1764. The observations made under his supervision were published in 1805.

The collection contains a complete series of transit observations for Bradley's term as Astronomer Royal, supplemented by notes, calculations, tables and correspondence, with a smaller set of observations and other papers relating to Bliss. The observation ledgers for both Astronomer Royals feature the handwriting of Charles Green, who was Bradley's assistant and continued in his post under Bliss. The papers are written mainly in English, but also include Latin and one item in Italian.

Bradley's observations were removed by his executors after his death, and became the property of his daughter. They passed from Miss Bradley to her uncle, the Revd Samuel Peach, and then to his son, John Peach, whose younger brother Samuel presented them to Oxford University in 1776. For many years the papers were in the hands of Clarendon Press as it prepared them for publication. They were returned to Greenwich by Oxford University in 1861. Bliss' observations were presented to the Observatory by his executors in 1768. RGO 3/45 was presented by the Radcliffe Trustees in 1934. RGO 3/46 was a later addition, source unknown.

Access and Use

In English, Italian, Latin

Please cite as Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives, Papers of James Bradley and Nathaniel Bliss, RGO 3

Further information

A word-processed handlist is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Indexed

This description was created by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical histories were compiled with reference to the entry on James Bradley in Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds, 'Dictionary of National Biography', Vol. II (London, 1908), pp. 1074-1079, and the entry on Nathaniel Bliss in ibid., pp. 682-683. It was emended in January 2009 by Zoe A. Rees.

RGO 36/1 contains microfilms of RGO 3/1-14, 30-45. Consult the hard copy catalogue of this series (available in the Manuscripts Reading Room) to obtain the classmark in use at the time of filming.

Index Terms
Bradley, James (1692-1762) astronomer
Bliss, Nathaniel (1700-1764) astronomer
Green, Charles (1734-1771) astronomer
RGO Archives/RGO 3 contains:
1 Observations of transits. A working copy of observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. The volume include a calculation to discover the difference between the meridians through Oxford and Greenwich and through Sherbourne and Greenwich, 22 July 1743.
1 volume.
1743
2 Observations of transits. A working copy of observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. There is a description of the occultation of Jupiter by the Moon, 6 June 1744.
1 volume.
1744–1746
3 Observations of transits. A working copy of observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. The volume includes a supplement on lunar eclipses, 1748-1751.
1 volume.
1746–1749
4 Observations of transits. A working copy of observations of the transits of major stars, 1749-1750, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. There is mention of the earthquake shock felt in London at 8.23 am on 8 February 1750. At the back of the book are transit observations for 1754-1755.
1 volume.
1749–1755
5 Observations of transits. A working copy of observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. On the inside cover is a brief resumé of adjustments and measurements, 1750-1755. An observation of a lunar eclipse, 2 December 1750, is loose in the volume.
1 volume.
1750–1755
6 Observations of transits. A working copy of observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. The entries include the lunar eclipse of 30 July 1757.
1 volume.
1755–1758
7 Observations of transits. A working copy of observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method.
1 volume.
1758–1762
8 Quadrant observations. A working copy of observations of major stars made with a quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. The volume includes an account of Bliss' observations of Jupiter at Oxford, 21 May 1743.
1 volume.
1743–1744
9 Quadrant observations. A working copy of observations of major stars made with a quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. The volume contains three similar descriptions of the quadrant and experiments performed upon it; corrections to the quadrant calculated in 1746; a grocery bill for the week beginning 10 March 1743; a rough hand table of variations to the quadrant, 1743-1744; and a small list of observations taken in 1722 and 1725.
1 volume.
1744–1747
10 Quadrant observations. Observations of major stars made with a quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. Inside the front cover is a brief history of repairs and alterations to the Old Quadrant, 1742-1753.
1 volume.
1747–1753
11 Quadrant observations. A working copy of observations of major stars made with a quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. The observations for 1750-1753 were taken on the New Quadrant; those for 1753-1758 were taken on the Old Quadrant.
1 volume.
1750–1758
12 Quadrant observations. A working copy of observations of major stars made with the New Quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method.
1 volume.
1753–1757
13 Quadrant observations. A working copy of observations of major stars made with the New Quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method.
1 volume.
1758–1762
14 Quadrant observations. Observations of the transits of major stars made with the New Quadrant, 1762-1765, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method, and quadrant observations of the transits of major stars taken by Charles Green, 1764-1765. There are tables for the following:. i) 'Daily Rate of the Transit Clock, Deduced from the Transits of the Fixed Stars, 1762-1764.'. ii) 'Calculated Mean Times of the Moon's passing the Meridians, 1762-1765' (added to the volume in 1861). ii) 'Apparent Right Ascensions of the Planets, 1762-1765' and the lunar eclipse of 17 March 1764.
1 volume.
1762–1765
15 Observations of transits. Observations of transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. The volume includes a calculation to discover the difference between the meridians through Oxford and Greenwich and through Sherbourne and Greenwich, 22 July 1743.
1 volume.
1743
16 Observations of transits. Observations of the transits of stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. A description is provided of the occultation of Jupiter by the Moon, 6 June 1744.
1 volume.
1744–1746
17 Observations of transits. Observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method.
1 volume.
1746–1749
18 Observations of transits. Observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. There is mention of the earthquake shock felt in London at 8.23 am on 8 February 1750.
1 volume.
1749–1750
19 Observations of transits. Observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. On the inside cover is a brief resumé of adjustments and measurements, 1750-1755. There are observations of lunar eclipses, 2 December 1750 and 21 November 1751.
1 volume.
1750–1755
20 Observations of transits. Observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. The entries include the lunar eclipse of 30 July 1757.
1 volume.
1755–1758
21 Observations of transits. Observations of the transits of major stars, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method.
1 volume.
1758–1762
22 Quadrant observations. Observations of major stars made with a quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method.
1 volume.
1743–1744
23 Quadrant observations. Observations of major stars made with a quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. This volume contains three similar descriptions of the quadrant (two in a rough hand) and experiments performed upon it; corrections to the quadrant calculated in 1746; two grocery bills for the weeks beginning 18 February and 10 March 1743; and a table of observations made between 1746 and 1747.
1 volume.
1744–1747
24 Quadrant observations. Observations of major stars made with a quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. Inside the front cover is a brief history of repairs and alterations to the Old Quadrant, 1742-1753.
1 volume.
1747–1753
25 Quadrant observations. Observations of major stars made with a quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method. There is a brief history of repairs and alterations to the telescope. The observations for 1750-1753 were taken on the New Quadrant; those for 1753-1758 were taken on the Old Quadrant.
1 volume.
1750–1758
26 Quadrant observations. Observations of major stars made with the New Quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method.
1 volume.
1753–1757
27 Quadrant observations. A working copy of observations of major stars made with the New Quadrant, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method.
1 volume.
1758–1762
28 Observations of transits. Observations of the transits of major stars made with the New Quadrant, 1762-1765, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method, and quadrant observations of the transits of major stars taken by Charles Green, 1764-1765.
1 volume.
1762–1765
29 Quadrant observations. Observations of the transits of major stars made with the New Quadrant, 1762-1765, including adjustments to the telescope and observational method, and quadrant observations of the transits of major stars taken by Charles Green, 1764-1765.
1 volume.
1762–1765
30 Zenith sector observations. A working copy of observations made with a zenith sector, received by Nevil Maskelyne from Mr W. Wales, 11 March 1770. The volume includes a Latin piece on the orbits of Jupiter's satellites, and contains adjustments to the telescope and observational method.
1 volume.
1749–1760
31 Notes and observations. A collection of handwritten notes, including:. 1. A note, dated 28 June 1734, regarding the errors of Edmond Halley's quadrant from experiments performed by Bradley. 2. A note, dated 26 July 1735, correcting the errors of the quadrant and the previous year's over-estimated calculations. 3. A note, dated 6 July 1742, on correcting errors in the quadrant and repairs to the telescope. 4. A note, dated 8 July 1742, comparing the quadrant's present position with its adjustments in 1726. 5. An undated note of c. 1742 describing Halley's observational technique and explaining the improvements devised by Bradley to aid observations in difficult weather and to refine the results that are taken. 6. Notes on the alterations to the line of collimation, 1744-1745. 7. A bound manuscript containing observations of the Pole Star and other major stars; tests on the New Quadrant; observations made with the New Transit Telescope and a description of its size and location; a law of refraction and its calculation; a note on the replacement of instruments from a £1000 grant; and separate notes on the quadrant and zenith sector calculations.
3 folders.
1734–1756
32 Observations, tables and notes. Various loose papers, including:. 1. Bradley's table of the aberration of certain fixed stars, 1746-1753. 2. Adjustments made to the telescope, 18 July 1745. 3. Observations made of Wanstead Tower and St Paul's Cathedral, 1746. 4. Various calculations, some for the period 1689-1691. 5. Calculations written on a Royal Society invitation to Bradley, 20 June 1757. 6. A table of observations of the Moon in Gemini made with the New Quadrant, 1753-1756. 7. Tables and observations relating to the quadrant, 1745-1746. 8. Tables relating to the transit telescope, 1743. 9. Papers referring to the occultation of Jupiter, 6 June 1744, as also observed at Oxford and Sherbourne. There are also observations of Jupiter and Mercury, 1743-1749. 10. Notes establishing the index from the quadrant, 1745-1753. 11. Calculations and tables to ascertain the zenith from the Old and New Quadrants, 1746-1753. One calculation is made on an invitation from the Royal Society, 22 November 1753. 12. Collimation error of the quadrant, 1742-1752. 13. Chart relating to the position of unknown stars. 14. Errors of the planes of the quadrant at various times between 1742 and 1745; a bound copy of 'Comparisons between the arc of the sector and Quadrants'; and diagrams and equations, 1750-1758. 15. Errors and rates of clocks, 1743-1748, with part of a letter concerning the building of an observatory. 16. Various data relating to adjustments taken on the quadrant, with a separate sheet of algebra. 17. Observations with the zenith sector, 1749-1758.
7 folders.
1742–1758
33 Lunar calculations. Calculations relating to observations of the Moon. The volume includes a diagram of the arcs used in Bradley's calculations. (MISSING).
1 volume.
1752–1762
34 Tables of Jupiter's satellites. Ecliptic tables of Jupiter's satellites compiled by James Bradley.
1 volume.
1700–1739
35 Sun's mean right ascension and tables. Tables of the Sun's mean right ascension and longitude, 1743-1758, followed by a table of mean right ascensions of stars, 1758.
1 volume.
1743–1758
36 Star catalogue. A fine copy of a catalogue of stars as observed by John Flamsteed, updated to 1744, with an index to the constellations at the back. The volume also includes a table of lunar parallaxes.
1 volume.
1744
37 Index of observations. 'Index to the days on which every observation of each star, with the Quadrants, was made by Bradley: or Working Catalogue marked off for the Quadrant observation 0h to 12h.'.
1 volume.
1753–1757
38 Index of observations. 'Index to the days on which every observation of each star, with the Quadrants, was made by Bradley: or working catalogue marked off for the Quadrant observation 12h to 24h.'.
1 volume.
1753–1757
39 Index of observations. 'Index to the days on which every observation of each star, with the Transit was made by Bradley: or working catalogue marked off for the Transit observations 0h to 12h.'.
1 volume.
1750–1756
40 Index of observations. 'Index to the days on which every observation of each star, with the Transit was made by Bradley: or working catalogue marked off for the Transit observations 12h to 24h.'.
1 volume.
1750–1756
41 Computations for the Moon. Computations to ascertain the Moon's position by observations and to find the apparent diameter of the Moon, with rules to compute the aberration of any star.
1 volume.
1742–1744
42 Tables. A collection of tables: (i) Refraction tables made from Lord Macclesfield's observations; (ii) Reduction of micrometer; (iii) Tables of Jupiter's satellites (in Latin); (iv) Lunar tables (in Latin); (v) Solar tables; (vi) Lunar tables; (vii) Tables of the nonagesimal.
1 volume.
1745
43 Observations, calculations and correspondence.
1 volume.
1723–1804
44 Observations and other papers. 1. Observations of the eclipse of the Moon, 1 March 1764. 2. Observations of the eclipse of the Sun, 1 April 1764. 3. Observations of the transit of Venus, 1769, with an eclipse of the Sun observed from Gibraltar, 1769, and a bill for crockery. 4. Observations of the eclipse of the Sun, 4 June 1764. 5. Observations of the eclipse of Jupiter's satellites, 1772-1774. 6. Observations of the eclipse of the Moon, 12 December [1769]. 7. Drawing, apparently of a solar eclipse. 8. Table of observations of the comet by Mr Napier, 1766, with computations and sketches. 9. Eclipses of the Sun and the Moon observed from Hawkhill, Scotland, 1769-1770. 10. Latitude of Hawkhill from the meridian altitudes of the Sun, 1770. 11. Transit observations at Hawkhill, 1771-1775. 12. Meridian altitude of Cassiopeia for finding the error of the quadrant. 13. Observations and calculations on the orbit of comets, 1769-1770. 14. Observations of an eclipse of a moon of Jupiter. 15. Calculations to find the distance of Ben Lomond from Hawkhill. 16. Short note on reflecting telescopes. 17. Reference on behalf of Thomas Hoy, 1771.
1 volume.
1764–1775
45 Observations. Observations made with the moveable brass quadrant, 5 December 1755 - 27 December 1760, and with the transit instrument, 31 July 1760 - 4 December 1763. There are notes on the observational technique and clocks employed; rough calculations; a drawing of a head; and a flyleaf entitled 'Cygnea Cantio' by William White, 1595.
1 volume.
1755–1763
46 Note on quadrant observations. One sheet containing a short note on transit observations made from 11 September 1742, from which a table or errors was compiled around 19 September.
1 envelope.
1742

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