Thomas Romney Robinson

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Thomas Romney Robinson

Robinson early in life
Born(1792-04-23)23 April 1792
Died28 February 1882(1882-02-28) (aged 89)
Awards Royal Medal (1862)
A hemispherical cup anemometer of the type invented in 1846 by John Thomas Romney Robinson Wea00920.jpg
A hemispherical cup anemometer of the type invented in 1846 by John Thomas Romney Robinson

Reverend John Thomas Romney Robinson FRAS [1] FRS FRSE DD DCL LLD (23 April 1792 – 28 February 1882), usually referred to as Thomas Romney Robinson, was a 19th-century astronomer and physicist. He was the longtime director of the Armagh Astronomical Observatory, one of the chief astronomical observatories in the UK of its time.


He is remembered as inventor of the 4-cup anemometer.


Robinson was born at St Anne's in Dublin, the son of the English portrait painter Thomas Robinson (d.1810) and his wife, Ruth Buck (d.1826). [2] He was educated at Belfast Academy then studied Divinity at Trinity College Dublin, where he was elected a Scholar in 1808, graduating BA in 1810 and obtaining a fellowship in 1814, at the age of 22. He was for some years a deputy professor of natural philosophy (physics) at Trinity.

Having been also ordained as an Anglican priest while at Trinity, he obtained the church livings of the Anglican Church at Enniskillen and at Carrickmacross in 1824.

Armagh Observatory, 1883 Armagh Observatory 1883b-s.jpg
Armagh Observatory, 1883
Robinson in the 1850s by James Simonton John Thomas Romney Robinson by James Simonton c1850s.png
Robinson in the 1850s by James Simonton

In 1823, now aged 30, he additionally gained the appointment of astronomer at the Armagh observatory. [3] From then on he always resided at the Armagh observatory, engaged in researches connected with astronomy and physics, until his death in 1882.

During the 1840s and 1850s Robinson was a frequent visitor to the world's most powerful telescope of that era, the so-called Leviathan of Parsonstown telescope, which had been built by Robinson's friend and colleague William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse. Robinson was active with Parsons in interpreting the higher-resolution views of the night sky produced by Parsons' telescope, particularly with regard to the galaxies and nebulae and he published leading-edge research reports on the question. [4] Back at his own observatory in Armagh, Robinson compiled a large catalogue of stars and wrote many related reports. In 1862 he was awarded a Royal Medal "for the Armagh catalogue of 5345 stars, deduced from observations made at the Armagh Observatory, from the years 1820 up to 1854; for his papers on the construction of astronomical instruments in the memoirs of the Astronomical Society, and his paper on electromagnets in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy".

Robinson is also of note as the inventor of a device for measuring the speed of the wind, the Robinson cup-anemometer (1846).

He was president of the Royal Irish Academy from 1851 to 1856, and was a long-time active organiser in the British Association for the Advancement of Science. [5]

Robinson was a friend of Charles Babbage, who said was "indebted" for having reminded him about the first time he came up with the idea of the calculating machine. [6]


He married twice: first Eliza Isabelle Rambaut (d.1839) and secondly Lucy Jane Edgeworth (1806–1897), the lifelong disabled [7] daughter of Richard Lovell Edgeworth. His daughter married the physicist George Gabriel Stokes. Stokes frequently visited Robinson in Armagh in Robinson's later years. [8]


On the Moon, Robinson (crater) is named in his honour.



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  1. "1883MNRAS..43..181. Page 181". Bibcode:1883MNRAS..43..181. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN   0-902-198-84-X.
  3. "Directors of Armagh Observatory"
  4. Book Observing and Cataloguing Nebulae and Star Clusters, by Wolfgang Steinicke, year 2010, pages 106–117.
  5. "Thomas Romney Robinson (1793–1882)". Ask about Ireland. Retrieved 7 August 2013. Robinson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1856: "Library archive". Royal Society . Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  6. Scientific types (1968). James Gerald Crowther. Barrie & Rockliff, p. 274
  7. Jean E. Friedman, Glenna R. Schroeder-Lei (2001). Ways of Wisdom: Moral Education in the Early National Period. University of Georgia Press. p. 247
  8. Details of Stokes's summer vacations are in the biography of Stokes by Stoke's daughter at