Robinson, Thomas Romney

Thomas Romney Robinson (1793-1882)

Astronomer, Meteorologist

Romney Robinson, born on 23rd April 1793, was the son of Thomas Robinson, a portrait painter from England who set up in business in Dublin about 1790.   The family later moved to Co. Down and then settled in Belfast where Romney attended Belfast Academy.   Romney was a precocious child and at the age of 12 had a volume of his poems published.   He entered Trinity College Dublin in 1806 and was made a Fellow in 1814.   He assisted Professor Bartholomew Lloyd and wrote a textbook on mechanics in 1820.

In 1821 Robinson relinquished his fellowship, married, took holy orders and was appointed rector of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh.   In 1823 he was appointed Director of Armagh Observatory and, with the support of the Church of Ireland Primate, Lord Beresford, he commissioned several new instruments and undertook an extensive observing programme.   He was a staunch supporter of Thomas Grubb who with his son Howard established a telescope-making firm of international renown in Dublin.   He was also closely associated with the astronomical work carried out by at Birr by William Parsons, third Earl of Rosse.

Robinson’s observing programme resulted in the publication in 1859 of a catalogue of 5345 star positions, for which he was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society.   He was elected FRS in 1856.

Robinson was interested in meteorology and is well known for the development of an anemometer based on ideas first suggested by R.L. Edgeworth.   He was deeply involved in the activities of the British Association for the Advancement of science and succeeded in inviting it to Dublin for their 1835 annual meeting.   He served as President of the Royal Irish Academy from 1851 to 1856 and played an important part in moving the Academy to its present premises in Dawson Street.   Robinson was a forceful and eloquent speaker but he held conservative views and was opposed to political reform.   He died on 28th February 1882 after completing nearly 59 years as Director of Armagh Observatory.

Further reading; 

Bennett, J.A. (1990) Church, State and Astronomy in Ireland – 200 years of Armagh Observatory.

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