Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Russell, Henry Chamberlaine

RUSSELL, HENRY CHAMBERLAINE (1836–1907), astronomer, born at West Maitland, New South Wales, on 17 March 1836, was son of the Hon. Bourne Russell. After education at the West Maitland grammar school and at Sydney University, where he graduated B.A. in 1858, he was appointed (1 Jan. 1859) an assistant at the Sydney observatory, and succeeded to the position of government astronomer in August 1870. The first years of his directorship were devoted to the enlargement and re-equipment of the observatory, and to the establishment throughout the colony of a very large number of meteorological stations, furnished in great part with instruments designed and made by him, and maintained by volunteer observers who were drawn into the work by Russell's enthusiasm. Throughout his life he devoted much time to the discussion of the great mass of observations furnished by these volunteers. His proof that the River Darling loses very much more water than can be accounted for by discharge and evaporation led to important gain in knowledge of the underground water systems of the country.

Russell's first great service to astronomy was the organisation of the Australian observations of the transit of Venus in 1874. He equipped four parties, and prepared the account of the whole work which appeared in 1892. He represented Australia at the congress summoned to meet in Paris in 1887 to consider the construction of a photographic chart of the sky. He promised the co-operation of the Sydney observatory, and at once ordered the necessary objective, but with characteristic resource decided to construct the mounting at his observatory. To Sydney the committee of the astrographic chart entrusted the zone of south dechnation 54° to 62°. The carrying forward of this work, very considerable for an observatory of modest resources, fully occupied the later years of Russell's directorship. He could not complete it, but he left it well established, and on the way to completion.

Russell took an active part in initiating technical education in New South Wales; he was a fellow of the University of Sydney, and vice-chancellor in 1891. He was four times president of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and first president of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. He was elected F.R.S. in 1886, and was created C.M.G. in 1890. His published works include: 'Climate of New South Wales: Descriptive, Historical, and Tabular' (Sydney, 1877); 'Photographs of the Milky Way and Nubeculæ taken at Sydney Observatory 1890' (fol. Sydney, 1891); 'Description of the Star Camera at the Sydney Observatory' (4to, Sydney, 1892); 'Observations of the Transit of Venus, 9 Dec. 1874; made at Stations in New South Wales' (4to, Sydney, 1892), with many volumes of astronomical and meteorological observations published from the Sydney observatory, and a great number of papers in the memoirs and monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Society of New South Wales, and other scientific societies.

Russell resigned the position of government astronomer in 1905, and died at Sydney on 22 Feb. 1907. He married Emily Jane, daughter of Ambrose Foss of Sydney, in 1861; she survived him with one son and four daughters.

[Proc. Roy. Sec, A. 80, 1908; Monthly Notices Roy. Astr. Soc. lxviii. 241, 1908.]

A. R. H.