Airy, George Biddell (1801–1892)
George Airy was an English astronomer, born in Alnwick, Northumberland, who
graduated head of his class from Cambridge in 1823 shortly after devising
a way to correct astigmatism –
a condition from which he personally suffered. In 1826 Airy was appointed
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (Newton's old position) at Cambridge,
and, two years later, Plumian Professor of Astronomy. As the seventh Astronomer
Royal (1835–1881) he turned the Royal
Greenwich Observatory into a model of efficiency and a leading center
for positional astronomy; the transit
telescope he installed defines the location of 0° longitude on Earth.
However, Airy's arrogance and disinterest in basic research held up the
confirmation of an eighth planet (Neptune)
based on predictions by John Adams and also left
Greenwich a late-starter in the fields of spectroscopy and astrophysics.
His precision, to the point of pedantry, extended to his labeling empty