Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drew, John

DREW, JOHN (1809–1857), astronomer, was born at Bower Chalk, Wiltshire, in 1809. His father dying when he was but a year old, his education depended mainly upon his own exertions, which were so effectual that at the age of fifteen he was prepared to enter upon the profession of a teacher. After two years spent as assistant in a school at Melksham, he removed to Southampton, where he made his permanent abode, and conducted a school ably and successfully during sixteen years. His first celestial observations were made with a three and a half foot refractor, for which he substituted later an excellent five-foot achromatic by Dollond, mounted equatorially, and in 1847 installed in a small observatory, built by him for its reception in his garden (Monthly Notices, x. 68). With the help of a fine transit-circle by Jones, acquired soon after, and of the Beaufoy clock, lent by the Royal Astronomical Society, he very accurately determined the time, and supplied it during many years to the ships leaving Southampton.

He published in 1835 ‘Chronological Charts illustrative of Ancient History and Geography,’ which he described as ‘a system of progressive geography;’ and in 1845 ‘A Manual of Astronomy: a Popular Treatise on Descriptive, Physical, and Practical Astronomy, with a familiar Explanation of Astronomical Instruments, and the best methods of using them.’ A second edition was issued in 1853. At the Southampton meeting of the British Association in 1846, Drew was appointed one of the secretaries of the mathematical section, and printed for the use of the association a pamphlet ‘On the Objects worthy of Attention in an Excursion round the Isle of Wight, including an Account of the Geological Formations as exhibited in the Sections along the Coast.’ Shortly afterwards he determined upon instituting systematic meteorological observations, and summarised the results for 1848 to 1853 inclusive, in two papers on the ‘Climate of Southampton,’ read before the British Association in 1851 and 1854 respectively (Report, 1851, p. 54; 1854, p. 29). Invited to assist in the foundation of the Meteorological Society in 1850, he sought, as a member of the council, to forward its objects by writing a series of papers ‘On the Instruments used in Meteorology, and on the Deductions from the Observations,’ which were extensively circulated among the members of the society, and formed the groundwork of a treatise on ‘Practical Meteorology,’ published by Drew in 1855, and re-edited by his son in 1860. His last work was a set of astronomical diagrams, published by the Department of Science and Art in 1857, faithfully representing the moon, planets, star-clusters, nebulæ, and other celestial objects (Monthly Notices, xvi. 14). Among the papers communicated by him to the Royal Astronomical Society (of which he was elected a member on 9 Jan. 1846), may be mentioned one on the ‘Telescopic Appearance of the Planet Venus at the time of her Inferior Conjunction, 28 Feb. 1854’ (ib. xv. 69), recording a considerable excess of the observed over the calculated breadth of the crescent. Drew died after a long illness at Surbiton in Surrey, on 17 Dec. 1857, aged 48. He was a corresponding member of the Philosophical Institute of Bâle, and had taken a degree of doctor in philosophy at the university of the same place.

[Monthly Notices, xviii. 98; the same in Mem. R. Astr. Soc. xxvii. 126; André et Rayet, L'Astronomie Pratique, i. 166; Royal Society's Cat. of Scientific Papers.]

A. M. C.