Lubbock, John William (DNB00)
LUBBOCK, Sir JOHN WILLIAM (1803–1865), astronomer and mathematician, third baronet, was born on 26 March 1803, in Duke Street, Westminster. He was the only child of Sir John William Lubbock, head of the banking firm of Lubbock & Co., by his wife, Mary, daughter of James Entwisle of Rusholme, Manchester. From Eton he passed in 1821 to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated as first senior optime in 1825, proceeding M.A. in 1833. His mathematical powers were recognised at the university; but he preferred original work to the ordinary course of study necessary for examination honours. After a brief interval of travel he became, in 1825, a partner in his father's bank, and entered upon a life divided between business and arduous study. A member of the committee of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge from 1829, he joined the Astronomical and Royal Societies in 1828 and 1829 respectively, aided in the establishment of the ‘British Almanac’ in 1827, and published, in the ‘Companion’ to that periodical for 1830, a descriptive memoir on the tides. He undertook in 1831 the untried task of comparing in detail tidal observations with theory (Phil. Trans. cxxi. 379, cxxiv. 143; Brit. Assoc. Report, 1832, p. 189, 1837, p. 103), and the satisfactory correspondence ascertained formed the theme of the Bakerian lecture delivered by him in 1836 (Phil. Trans. cxxvi. 217), and of a paper presented to the Royal Society on 16 March 1837 (ib. cxxvii. 97). His first data were furnished by records kept at the London docks from 1795 onwards, and he later discussed similar materials procured from Liverpool (ib. cxxv. 275). A royal medal was adjudged to him in 1834 by the Royal Society for his tidal investigations.
Lubbock gave in 1829 a method for determining cometary orbits, exemplified by the return of Halley's comet in 1759 (Memoirs Astr. Soc. iv. 39), and he laid before the Royal Society, on 29 April 1830, a more general demonstration than that of Laplace of the stability of the solar system (Phil. Trans. cxx. 327). His laborious researches in physical astronomy were mainly directed towards the simplification of methods; and he introduced uniformity into the calculation of lunar and planetary perturbations by employing in the former, as in the latter, the time as the independent variable. He recommended to the British Association in 1836 the formation of new empirical tables of the moon (Brit. Assoc. Report, 1836, ii. 12), and corresponded on the subject with Sir William Rowan Hamilton of Dublin (Graves, Life of Hamilton, ii. 192, 197, 209). In his final memoir on the lunar theory, sent to the Royal Astronomical Society on 9 Nov. 1860 (Memoirs Astr. Soc. xxx. 1), he justly claimed for himself, with Plana and Pontécoulant, the credit of having reduced the tabular errors of the moon below those of observation.
Lubbock was foremost among English mathematicians in adopting Laplace's doctrine of probability. Two papers on the calculation of annuities, written by him in 1828–9 (Cambridge Phil. Soc. Trans. iii. 141, 321), illustrated its applicability to questions connected with life assurance, and he was the joint author, with Drinkwater, of an excellent elementary treatise on probability, published in 1830 (and reprinted in 1844) by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. A binder's blunder caused this work to be often attributed to De Morgan, despite his frequent disclaimers.
Lubbock acted as treasurer and vice-president of the Royal Society from 1830 to 1835, and from 1838 to 1847. He was the first vice-chancellor (1837–42) of the London University, one of the treasurers of the Great Exhibition of 1851, a visitor to the Royal Observatory, a member of various scientific commissions, notably those on the standards and on weights and measures; he was also associated with several foreign learned societies. On the death of his father, on 22 Oct. 1840, he succeeded to the baronetcy, and as sole working partner guided the bank through the commercial panics of 1847 and 1857. Three years later an amalgamation was effected with another house, and the firm bebecame Robarts, Lubbock, & Co. But he had no longer his old energy to employ the leisure thus procured. From 1840 he led a retired life at his residence of High Elms, near Farnborough in Kent, occupied with farming and planting, taking pride in his shorthorns and southdowns, promoting the education of the poor, and teaching his children mathematics, while reserving the early and late portions of each day for abstruse inquiries. From 1860 he suffered from gout and general debility, and died of valvular disease of the heart on 20 June 1865, at the age of sixty-two. His upright, benevolent, and disinterested character had won him universal esteem. He married, on 29 June 1833, Harriet, daughter of Lieutenant-general Hotham of York, by whom he had eleven children, of whom the present baronet, Sir John Lubbock, LL.D., is the eldest. Lady Lubbock survived him until 12 Feb. 1873.
Among Lubbock's separate works were: 1. ‘Six Maps of the Stars,’ executed under his superintendence for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, London, 1830. 2. ‘An Elementary Treatise on the Computation of Eclipses and Occupations,’ 1835. 3. ‘On the Theory of the Moon and on the Perturbations of the Planets,’ in eleven parts, 1833-61 (reprinted from ‘Philosophical Transactions’ and the Royal Astronomical Society's ‘Memoirs’). 4. ‘Remarks on the Classification of the different Branches of Human Knowledge,’ 1838. 5. ‘An Elementary Treatise on the Tides,’ 1839. 6. ‘On the Heat of Vapours and on Astronomical Refraction,’ 1840 (a reprint of papers contributed to vols. xvi. and xvii. of the ‘Philosophical Magazine’). 7. ‘On Currency,’ 1840. 8. ‘On the Gnomonic Projection of the Sphere,’ 1851. 9. ‘On the Clearing of the London Bankers,’ 1860. He also wrote in 1830 ‘On Precession’ (Phil. Trans. cxxi. 17), and in 1848 ‘On Change of Climate resulting from a Change in the Earth's Axis of Rotation’ (Quarterly Journal Geol. Soc.v. 4).[Proc. Royal Soc. vol. xv. p. xxxii; Monthly Notices, Roy. Astr. Soc. xxvi. 118; Times, 23 June 1865; Athenæum, 1 July 1865; Grant's Physical Astronomy, pp. 120, 162; Whewell's Inductive Sciences, ii. 83, 3rd edit.; Royal Soc. Cat. of Scientific Papers.]