BornGreenwich, England, 1840
DiedLewisham, London, England, 17 October 1899
James Carpenter spent 18 years at the Greenwich Observatory and afterwards became a noted popularizer of astronomy. Mathematically talented, he was hired (at age 14) as a computer in the observatory’s Magnetic and Meteorological Department. He was then transferred to the Astronomical Department where, in 1859, he succeeded Mr. H. Breen as observatory assistant and was soon placed in charge of the new southeast equatorial telescope. This he used for a variety of observations, including the moon, major planets, comets, and nebulae. He was considered a fine draftsman and produced good likenesses of these objects. He also measured the positions of stellar absorption lines (1863) using a spectroscope designed by George Airy. For a time, he was also given charge of the observatory’s library and instituted a new cataloging system. Carpenter was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1867. Although he...