A mystery astronomer?

The National Maritime Museum owns a painting that is something of a mystery, so I thought I would open the question up to readers of the blog. It was in the Museum’s foundational collection, donated by its major benefactor, Sir James Caird, and was at that time believed to be a portrait of Nevil Maskelyne. This explains why I have come across it again recently, for it is included in both the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry and Derek’s Howse’s 1989 biography, The Seaman’s Astronomer. Howse, however, had his doubts about the attribution, for the sensible reason that it does not look all that much like the other known portraits. It now appears in the NMM’s online catalogue as “Formerly called Nevil Maskelyne“. If you do a Google image search you will find both attributions – you will also, bizarrely, find that you can buy a Photo Mug of Formerly Called Nevil Maskelyne from Amazon. [Read more…]


About Rebekah Higgitt

Rebekah Higgitt completed a PhD in the history of science at Imperial College London in 2004 and did postdoctoral research at the University of Edinburgh. Since 2008 she has been Curator of History of Science and Technology at the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Her research and publications have mainly focused on scientific institutions, scientific biography, history of science and the relationship between science, government and the public in 19th-century Britain.
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