Family Story Walks: John Flamsteed

Artist Insight | 05 May 2023

Family Story Walks: John Flamsteed. An oil painting of the famous astronomer John Flamsteed

To celebrate our new season of Family Story Walks, artist Juwon Ogungbe explains the stories behind some of Greenwich’s most notorious residents…

John Flamsteed (1646 – 1719)

John Flamsteed was an English astronomer who was born in Denby, Derbyshire, England in 1646.

He showed an interest in astronomy – the science of studying stars, planets, and other objects in the sky, from an early age.

After studying astronomy and mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, Flamsteed worked as a mathematics tutor and as a clergyman.

His work in astronomy was noticed by some influential people who told King Charles II about it.

The King was also interested in astronomy, so he appointed John Flamsteed as the first Astronomer Royal, on the 4th of March 1675.

John Flamsteed and Greenwich

Flamsteed was given a grant of £100 per year and a plot of land in the Royal Park of Greenwich to build an Observatory.

The Observatory was built on a hill overlooking the Thames River. This location was chosen to get a good view of the skies, away from the smog and dirt of the city and to be easy to reach by river.

Equipped with the latest telescopes and instruments, the Royal Observatory in Greenwich quickly became a centre for astronomical research. The Observatory is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination.

John Flamsteed spent most of his career working on the Historia Coelestis Britannica – a comprehensive catalogue of stars. The catalogue was published in three volumes between 1712 and 1725. It was a major contribution to astronomy that established him as one of the leading astronomers of his time.

John Flamsteed died in 1719 and was buried in the churchyard of St Alfrege’s Church, Greenwich.

A brilliant astronomer, Flamsteed made significant contributions to our current understanding of the stars and the universe. His work helped to lay the foundation for modern astronomy and his legacy still inspires astronomers today.

Who's Who

Juwon Ogungbe. A head and shoulders photo of a man with no hair and dark skin. He is wearing a maroon tshirt and black jacket. We can see bunting in the background

Juwon Ogungbe

Juwon Ogungbe is a distinguished opera singer and composer, as well as a performer in a range of other genres. He has composed for the BBC, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Southbank Centre amongst many others.

Juwon’s operatic works have been in various stages of development at Opera North, Grimeborn Opera Festival (Arcola Theatre) and at the Dhow Countries Music Academy, Zanzibar.

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba – Juwon’s most recent music theatre piece was premiered in 2019 and several of his new works have been publicly performed in 2020.

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