Fallows, Fearon (DNB00)
FALLOWS, FEARON (1789–1831), astronomer, was born at Cockermouth in Cumberland on 4 July 1789. Brought up to his father's trade of weaving, he devoted from childhood every spare moment to study, and a mathematical book was his constant companion at the loom. The Rev. H. A. Hervey, vicar of Bridekirk, to whom his father acted as parish clerk, obtained his appointment as assistant to Mr. Temple, head-master of Plumbland school. After Temple's death in 1808 he was enabled, by the patronage of some gentlemen of fortune, to enter St. John's College, Cambridge, whence he graduated as third wrangler in 1813, Sir J. Herschel [q. v.] being first. He held a mathematical lectureship in Corpus Christi College for two years, and was then elected to a fellowship in St. John's. He proceeded M.A. in 1816.
On 26 Oct. 1820 he was made director of an astronomical observatory, established by a resolution of the commissioners of longitude at the Cape of Good Hope. He sailed on 4 May 1821, accompanied by his newly married wife, the eldest daughter of Mr. Hervey, his former patron. On landing he chose a site within three miles of Cape Town, prepared plans for the future observatory, and began to construct an approximate catalogue of the chief southern stars with the aid of a diminutive transit by Dollond, and an indifferent altazimuth by Ramsden. The results were presented to the Royal Society on 26 Feb. 1824 as ‘A Catalogue of nearly all the Principal Fixed Stars between the zenith of Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope, and the South Pole, reduced to the 1st of Jan. 1824’ (Phil. Trans. cxiv. 457). The collection includes 273 stars, the original observations of which are preserved at Greenwich.
In July 1824 Fallows had to dismiss his assistant, and was left alone until December 1826, when Captain Ronald arrived from England, bringing with him the permanent instruments and the official sanction of his designs for the observatory. The work was now at once begun, Fallows living in a tent on the spot. The instruments were fixed in their places early in 1829. The transit by Dollond proved satisfactory, but the defects of the mural circle occasioned Fallows bitter disappointment. The departure of Captain Ronald in October 1830 was a severe blow, and but for the devotion of Mrs. Fallows, who qualified herself to act as his assistant, he would have been forced to discontinue his observations. His own health had been shaken by a sunstroke soon after his arrival, and was finally wrecked by a dangerous attack of scarlatina in the middle of 1830. Incurable dropsy set in, but he still struggled to perform his duties, and during the early part of 1831 was carried daily in a blanket from his sick-room to the observatory. Towards the end of March he was removed to Simon's Bay, where he died on 25 July 1831. A slab of black Robben-island stone marks his grave opposite the observatory. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1823.
Fallows's scientific attainments were made more effective by the zeal, honesty, and clear good sense of his character. Letters still exist at the admiralty in which he urged the payment to his father of a portion of his salary of 600l. Several children were born to him at the Cape, but none survived him. He left nearly four thousand observations, which were reduced under the supervision of Sir George Airy, and published at the expense of the admiralty as ‘Results of the Observations made by the Rev. Fearon Fallows at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, in the years 1829–31.’ They form part of the nineteenth volume of the Royal Astronomical Society's ‘Memoirs,’ and include a catalogue of 425 stars, besides observations on the sun, moon, planets, and the comet of 1830. An account of a curious luminous appearance seen by him on 28 Nov. 1821 in the same dark part of the moon where similar effects had previously been witnessed by others, was laid before the Royal Society on 28 Feb. 1822 (Phil. Trans. cxii. 237), and his ‘Observations made with the Invariable Pendulum for the purpose of Determining the Compression of the Earth’ on 18 Feb. 1830 (ib. cxx. 153). The ellipticity deduced was 1/288.5. In the ‘Quarterly Journal of Science’ he published ‘An Account of some Parhelia seen at the Cape of Good Hope’ (xvi. 365, 1823), and ‘An Easy Method of Comparing the Time indicated by any number of Chronometers with the given Time at a certain Station’ (xvii. 315, 1824).[Monthly Notices, ii. 163; Airy's Historical Introduction to Fallows's Results, Memoirs Roy. Astron. Soc. xix. 1; Proc. Roy. Soc. iii. 82; Gent. Mag. vol. ci. pt. ii. p. 378; André et Rayet's L'Astronomie Pratique, ii. 66; Lonsdale's Worthies of Cumberland, v. 161.]