Burton, Charles Edward (DNB00)
BURTON, CHARLES EDWARD (1846–1882), astronomer, was born on 16 Sept. 1846, at Barnton, Cheshire, of which benefice his father, the Rev. Edward W. Burton, was then incumbent. He showed from childhood a marked taste for astronomy, and entered Lord Rosse's observatory as assistant in February 1868, some months before taking a degree of B. A. at the university of Dublin. Compelled by constitutional delicacy to resign the post in March 1869, he joined the Sicilian expedition to observe the total solar eclipse of 22 Dec. 1870, and read a paper on its results before the Royal Irish Academy, 13 Feb. 1871 (Proc. new ser. i. 113). The observations and drawings made by him at Agosta (Sicily) were included in Mr. Ranyard's valuable 'eclipse volume' (Mem. R. A. Soc. xli.) Attached as photographer to the transit of Venus expedition in 1874, he profited by his stay at Rodriguez to observe southern nebulae (30 Doradus and that surrounding η Argus) with a 12-inch silvered glass reflector of his own construction (Month. Not. xxxvi. 69). On his return he spent nearly twelve months at Greenwich measuring photographs of the transit, then worked for two years at the observatory of Dunsink, near Dublin, and retired in August 1878, once more through ill-health, to his father's parsonage at Loughlinstown, county Dublin, where he made diligent use of his own admirable specula. His observations on Mars, during the opposition of 1879, were of especial value as confirming the existence, and adding to the numbers, of the 'canals' discovered by Schiaparelli two years previously. A communication to the Royal Dublin Society descriptive of them was printed in their 'Scientific Transactions' under the title of 'Physical Observations of Mars, 1879-80' (i. 151, ser. ii.) From twenty-four accompanying drawings (two of them executed by Dr. Dreyer with the Dunsink refractor) a chart on Mercator's projection was constructed, which Mr. Webb adopted in the fourth edition of his 'Celestial Objects' (1881). Burton's experiments on lunar photography were interrupted by preparations for the second transit of Venus. But within a few weeks of starting for his assigned post at Aberdeen Road, Cape Colony, he died suddenly of heart-disease in Castle Knock church, on Sunday, 9 July 1882, aged 35.
The loss to science by the premature close of his useful and blameless life was considerable. He was equally keen in observing, and skilful in improving the means of observing. With Mr. Howard Grubb he devised the 'ghost micrometer,' described before the Royal Dublin Society, 15 Nov. 1880 (Proc. iii. 1; Month. Not. xli. 59), and alluded to hopefully by Dr. Gill in his treatise on micrometers (Encycl. Brit., 9th ed, xvi. 256). Among his communications to scientific periodicals may be mentioned 'Note on the Appearance presented by the fourth Satellite of Jupiter in Transit in the years 1871-3' (Month. Not. xxxiii. 472), in which he concluded, independently of Engelmann, an identity in times of rotation and revolution; ' On the Present Dimensions of the White Spot Linné' (ib. xxxiv. 107); 'On Certain Phenomena presented by the Shadows of Jupiter's Satellites while in Transit, and on a possible Method of deducing the Depth of the Planet's Atmosphere from such Observations' (ib. xxxv. 65); 'On the possible Existence of Perturbations in Cometic Orbits during the Formation of Nuclear Jets, with Suggestions for their Detection' (ib. xlii. 422); 'On the Aspect of Mars at the Oppositions of 1871 and 1873' (Trans. R. I. Ac. xxvi. 427); 'On recent Researches respecting the Minimum visible in the Microscope' (Proc. R. I. Ac. ser. ii. iii. 248); 'Note on the Aspect of Mars in 1881-2' (Copernicus, ii. 91); 'Notes on the Aspect of Mars in 1882' (Sc. Trans. R. Dub. Soc. i. 301, 2nd ser.) He was a member of the Royal Irish Academy and of the Royal Astronomical Society.
[Copernicus, ii. 158; Astr. Reg. xx. 173; R. Soc. Cat. Sc. Papers, vii. 309.]