Mike Guilfoyle, a member of the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, recalls the life of Greenwich astronomer James Carpenter who wrote an influential book on the moon
Whilst recently watching on television the successful landing of an Indian space craft on the Moon, I recalled that closer to home a Lunar astronomer was interred in Ladywell cemetery.
James Carpenter (1840-1899) was an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich under the direction of the famous Astronomer Royal Sir George Airy.
He was one of the astronomers who successfully observed the dark underside of the rings of Saturn. In 1871 the engineer James Nasmyth partnered with Carpenter to produce an influential book about the Moon entitled , The Moon: Considered as a Planet. a World, and a Satellite.
This work was illustrated by photographs of plaster models representing the lunar surface, with illumination from various angles. The result was more realistic images of the lunar surface than could be achieved by telescope photography at that time.
Nasmyth likely adopted the method from his father, a well-known Scottish landscape painter who used plaster models as studies for his paintings. The authors were proponents for the volcanic origin of craters, a theory that was later proved incorrect.
The Carpenter crater is jointly named after him and the US astronomer Edwin Francis Carpenter d.1963.
For budding astronomers interested in locating this crater , this reference might assist: The Carpenter impact crater is located in the northern part of the Moon, at 69.4° North latitude and 50.9° West longitude, and it is visible in the upper left part of the image. Carpenter is 2.6 kilometres deep, and its diameter is 59 kilometres.
The book can be read free of charge on line as a part of the 2018 Project Gutenberg E-Book of the Moon:
Also interred here are his wife Ellen Penn d.1892 the daughter of Thomas Penn. He had resigned from the Observatory in 1872 to take up a position in the family firm John Penn & Sons Marine Engineers who were a major employer in the area and whose main works on Blackheath Hill, where just a short distance from his home in Greenwich.
An interesting submarine footnote to the location of James Carpenter’s burial plot is an adjacent headstone – that of the Rev. Robert Jones Griffiths d.1892 who wrote a prescient book in 1887 entitled: Under the Deep, Deep Sea, The story of the Channel Tunnel!