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MASOLINO DA PANICALE—MASON, G.

solar eclipse of 1748 made a deep impression upon him; and having graduated as seventh wrangler from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1754, he determined to devote himself wholly to astronomy. He became intimate with James Bradley in 1755, and in 1761 was deputed by the Royal Society to make observations of the transit of Venus at St Helena. During the voyage he experimented upon the determination of longitude by lunar distances, and ultimately effected the introduction of the method into navigation (q.v.). In 1765 he succeeded Nathaniel Bliss as astronomer-royal. Having energetically discharged the duties of his office during forty-six years, he died on the 9th of February 1811.

Maskelyne’s first contribution to astronomical literature was “A Proposal for Discovering the Annual Parallax of Sirius,” published in 1760 (Phil. Trans. li. 889). Subsequent volumes of the same series contained his observations of the transits of Venus (1761 and 1769), on the tides at St Helena (1762), and on various astronomical phenomena at St Helena (1764) and at Barbados (1764). In 1763 he published the British Mariner’s Guide, which includes the suggestion that in order to facilitate the finding of longitude at sea lunar distances should be calculated beforehand for each year and published in a form accessible to navigators. This important proposal, the germ of the Nautical Almanac, was approved of by the government, and under the care of Maskelyne the Nautical Almanac for 1767 was published in 1766. He continued during the remainder of his life the superintendence of this invaluable annual. He further induced the government to print his observations annually, thereby securing the prompt dissemination of a large mass of data inestimable from their continuity and accuracy. Maskelyne had but one assistant, yet the work of the observatory was perfectly organized and methodically executed. He introduced several practical improvements, such as the measurement of time to tenths of a second; and he prevailed upon the government to replace Bird’s mural quadrant by a repeating circle 6 ft. in diameter. The new instrument was constructed by E. Troughton; but Maskelyne did not live to see it completed. In 1772 he suggested to the Royal Society the famous Schehallion experiment for the determination of the earth’s density and carried out his plan in 1774 (Phil. Trans. 1. 495), the apparent difference of latitude between two stations on opposite sides of the mountain being compared with the real difference of latitude obtained by triangulation. From Maskelyne’s observations Charles Hutton deduced a density for the earth 4.5 times that of water (ib. lxviii. 782). Maskelyne also took a great interest in various geodetical operations, notably the measurement of the length of a degree of latitude in Maryland and Pennsylvania (ibid. lviii. 323), executed by Mason and Dixon in 1766–1768, and later the determination of the relative longitude of Greenwich and Paris (ib. lxxvii. 151). On the French side the work was conducted by Count Cassini, Legendre, and Méchain; on the English side by General Roy. This triangulation was the beginning of the great trigonometrical survey which has since been extended all over the country. His observations appeared in four large folio volumes (1776–1811). Some of them were reprinted in S. Vince’s Astronomy (vol. iii.).  (A. M. C.) 


MASOLINO DA PANICALE (1383–c. 1445), Florentine painter, was said to have been born at Panicale di Valdelsa, near Florence. It is more probable, however, that he was born in Florence itself, his father, Cristoforo Fini, who was an “imbiancatore,” or whitewasher, having been domiciled in the Florentine quarter of S. Croce. There is reason to believe that Tommaso, nicknamed Masolino, was a pupil of the painter Starnina, and was principally influenced in style by Antonio Veneziano; he may probably enough have become in the sequel the master of Masaccio. He was born in 1383; he died later than 1429, perhaps as late as 1440 or even 1447. Towards 1423 he entered the service of Filippo Scolari, the Florentine-born obergespann of Temeswar in Hungary, and stayed some time in that country, returning towards 1427 to Italy. The only works which can with certainty be assigned to him are a series of wall paintings executed towards 1428, commissioned by Cardinal Branda Castiglione, in the church of Castiglione d’Olona, not far from Milan, and another series in the adjoining baptistery. The first set is signed as painted by “Masolinus de Florentia.” It was recovered in 1843 from a coating of whitewash, considerably damaged; its subject matter is taken from the lives of the Virgin and of SS Lawrence and Stephen. The series in the baptistery relates to the life and death of John the Baptist. The reputation of Masolino had previously rested almost entirely upon the considerable share which he was supposed to have had in the celebrated frescoes of the Brancacci Chapel, in the Church of the Carmine in Florence; he was regarded as the precursor of Masaccio, and by many years the predecessor of Filippino Lippi, in the execution of a large proportion of these works. But from a comparison of the Castiglione with the Brancacci frescoes, and from other data, it is very doubtful whether Masolino had any hand at all in the latter series. Possibly he painted in the Brancacci Chapel certain specified subjects which are now either destroyed or worked over. Several paintings assigned to Masolino on the authority of Vasari are now ascribed to Masaccio.  (W. M. R.) 


MASON, FRANCIS (1799–1874), American missionary, was born in York, England, on the 2nd of April 1799. His grandfather, Francis Mason, was the founder of the Baptist Society in York, and his father, a shoemaker by trade, was a Baptist lay preacher there. After working with his father as a shoemaker for several years, he emigrated in 1818 to the United States, and in Massachusetts was licensed to preach as a Baptist in 1827. In 1830 he was sent by the American Baptist Missionary Convention to labour among the Karens in Burma. Besides conducting a training college for native preachers and teachers at Tavoy, he translated the Bible into the two principal dialects of the Karens, the Sgaw and the Pwo (his translation being published in 1853), and Matthew, Genesis, and the Psalms into the Bghai dialect. He also published A Pali Grammar on the Basis of Kachchayano, with Chrestomathy and Vocabulary (1868). In 1852 he published a book of great value on the fauna and flora of British Burma, of which an improved edition appeared in 1860 under the title Burmah, its People and Natural Productions, and a third edition (2 vols.) revised and enlarged by W. Theobald in 1882–1883. He died at Rangoon on the 3rd of March 1874.

See his autobiography, The Story of a Working Man’s Life, with Sketches of Travel in Europe, Asia, Africa and America (New York, 1870).


MASON, GEORGE (1725–1792), American statesman, was born in Stafford county (the part which is now Fairfax county), Virginia, in 1725. His family was of Royalist descent and emigrated to America after the execution of Charles I. His colonial ancestors held official positions in the civil and military service of Virginia. Mason was a near neighbour and a lifelong friend of George Washington, though in later years they disagreed in politics. His large estates and high social standing, together with his personal ability, gave Mason great influence among the Virginia planters, and he became identified with many enterprises, such as the organization of the Ohio Company and the founding of Alexandria (1749). He was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1759–1760. In 1769 he drew up for Washington a series of non-importation resolutions, which were adopted by the Virginia legislature. In July 1774 he wrote for a convention in Fairfax county a series of resolutions known as the Fairfax Resolves, in which he advocated a congress of the colonies and suggested non-intercourse with Great Britain, a policy subsequently adopted by Virginia and later by the Continental Congress. He was a member of the Virginia Committee of Safety from August to December 1775, and of the Virginia Convention in 1775 and 1776; and in 1776 he drew up the Virginia Constitution and the famous Bill of Rights, a radically democratic document which had great influence on American political institutions. In 1780 he outlined the plan which was subsequently adopted by Virginia for ceding to the Federal government her claim to the “back lands,” i.e. to territory north and north-west of the Ohio river. From 1776 to 1788 he represented Fairfax county in the Virginia Assembly. He was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1776–1780 and again in 1787–1788, and in 1787 was a member of the convention that framed the Federal Constitution, and as one of its ablest debaters took an active part in the work. Particularly notable was his opposition to the compromises in regard to slavery and the slave-trade. Indeed, like most of the prominent Virginians of the time, Mason was strongly in favour of the gradual abolition of slavery. He objected to the large and indefinite powers given by the completed Constitution to