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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/416

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Pritchard
Pritchard
404

by rote passages from classical authors. Pecuniary difficulties at home, however, compelled his removal; and for two years he worked alone, chiefly at mathematics, attending also some lectures on chemistry. In 1825, when only seventeen, he published an ‘Introduction to Arithmetic,’ and in 1826 was enabled, by the help of friends, to enter St. John's College, Cambridge, whence he graduated as fourth wrangler in 1830. He proceeded M. A. in 1833, having been elected a fellow of his college in March 1832. He had already communicated to the Cambridge Philosophical Society a paper on the ‘Figure of the Earth,’ and he published in 1831 a ‘Treatise on the Theory of Statical Couples,’ which was adopted in the teaching of the university, and reached a second edition in 1837. In 1833 he accepted the head-mastership of a school at Stockwell, newly started in connection with King's College. Dean Bradley, one of his pupils there, described him as ‘a young man, full of fire, enthusiasm, and original ability’ (Nineteenth Century, March 1884). Difficulties, however, with the governing body caused his speedy resignation; and the Clapham grammar school was founded to give him a freer hand in carrying out much-needed educational reforms. Over this establishment he presided with remarkable success from 1834 to 1862. His system of teaching was wide and accommodating, his zeal indefatigable; and pupils were attracted from all parts of the kingdom. Among them were Dean Bradley and Professor Mivart, with the sons of Sir John Herschel, Sir George Airy, Sir William Rowan Hamilton, and Charles Darwin. A banquet given in Pritchard's honour in 1886 by the ‘Old Boys’ of Clapham was a unique tribute to the manner of his rule there. He was moved by it to write a short autobiography, which he circulated among his friends.

On leaving Clapham, Pritchard retired with his family to Freshwater in the Isle of Wight. He had been ordained in 1834, and earnestly desired to devote himself to pastoral duties, but failed to obtain a cure. He nevertheless delivered addresses, generally on the harmony between science and Scripture, at various church congresses, and preached so often before the British Association that he came to be known as its ‘chaplain.’ His discourse at the Nottingham meeting in 1866 suggested to his friend, Sir William Page Wood (afterwards Lord Hatherley), the latter's work on ‘The Continuity of Holy Scripture,’ and led to his own appointment as Hulsean lecturer at Cambridge in 1867. He was, besides, one of the select preachers at Cambridge in 1869 and 1881, and at Oxford in 1876 and 1877.

Pritchard had a small observatory at Clapham, and joined the Royal Astronomical Society on 13 April 1849. His first contribution to their proceedings, in January 1853, was on ‘The Use of Mercury in Observations by Reflexion’ (Monthly Notices, xiii. 61). In ‘Calculations of the three Conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn in B.C. 7, B.C. 66, and A.D. 54,’ he showed, in 1856, the inadmissibility of Ideler's identification of one of them with the star of the Magi (Memoirs, xxv. 119). He made some photometrical experiments on the annular solar eclipse of 15 March 1858 (Monthly Notices, xviii. 245), and joined the ‘Himalaya Expedition’ to Spain for observing the total eclipse of 18 July 1860. He served continuously on the council of the society from 1856 to 1877, and again from 1883 to 1887; was chosen president in 1866, and in that capacity delivered two admirable addresses in presenting gold medals to Huggins and Leverrier in 1867 and 1868 respectively.

Early in 1870 Pritchard succeeded William Fishburn Donkin [q.v.] as Savilian professor of astronomy in the university of Oxford. Although just sixty-two, he entered upon his new duties with the ardour of youth. Through his initiative convocation granted the necessary funds for the erection of a new observatory in the ‘Parks;’ the plans of the building were designed by Pritchard himself. A twelve-inch refractor was purchased from Sir Howard Grubb, and Dr. Warren de la Rue [q.v.] presented other instruments, including a thirteen-inch reflecting equatoreal, constructed by himself. The ‘New Savilian Observatory for Astronomical Physics’ was completed in 1875 (ib. xxxiv. 49, xxxv. 376, xxxvi. 1). Pritchard at once discerned the advantages of the photographic method, and applied the collodion process to an investigation of the moon's libration (Memoirs Roy. Astr. Society, xlvii. 1). He next undertook the micrometric determination of forty stars in the Pleiades, with a view to ascertain their relative displacements since Bessel's time. The results, since shown to be dubious, were published in 1884 (ib. xlviii. 357). Discordances between various estimates of the brightness of these stars led him to the invention of the ‘wedge-photometer,’ described before the Astronomical Society on 11 Nov. 1881 (ib. xlvii. 357). This instrument was criticised by Wilsing at Potsdam (Astr. Nach. No. 2680), by Langley, Young, and Pickering in America (Memoirs Amer. Acad. of Sciences, 1886, p. 301), and by Dr. Spitta in this country. Vigorously defended by Pritchard (Monthly