Open main menu


POUND, JAMES (1669–1724), astronomer, was the son of John Pound, of Bishop's Canning, Wiltshire, where he was born in 1669. He matriculated at St. Mary Hall, Oxford, on 16 March 1687; graduated B.A. from Hart Hall on 27 Feb. 1694, and M.A. from Gloucester Hall in the same year; and obtained a medical diploma, with a degree of M.B., on 21 Oct. 1697. Having taken orders, he entered the service of the East India Company, and went out to Madras in 1699 as chaplain to the merchants of Fort St. George, whence he proceeded to the British settlement on the islands of Pulo Condore, near the mouth of the River Cambodia. 'He got much in the plantations,' Hearne remarked of him, 'but lost all in an insurrection of the Indians.' On the morning of 3 March 1705 the native troops at Pulo Condore mutinied, conflagration and massacre ensued, and only eleven of the English residents escaped in the sloop Rose to Malacca, and ultimately, after many adventures, reached Batavia. Pound was among the refugees; but his collections and papers were destroyed. A valuable set of documents relating to the catastrophe–some of them composed, others copied, by him–are preserved in the Bodleian Library (Bradley MS. No. 24).

Pound was, in July 1707–a year after his return to England–presented by Sir Richard Child to the rectory of Wanstead in Essex; and the favour of Lord-chancellor Parker secured for him, in January 1720, on Flamsteed's death, that of Burstow in Surrey. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 30 Nov. 1699, but his admittance was deferred until 30 July 1713, when his astronomical career may be said to have begun. Halley communicated to the Royal Society his phase-determinations of the total solar eclipse of 3 May 1715, with the remark that their author was 'furnished with very curious instruments, and well skilled in the matter of observation' (Phil. Trans. xxix. 252). On 14 July 1715 Pound observed an occultation of a star by Jupiter, on 30 Oct. an eclipse of the moon, and made, in 1716 and 1717, various planetary observations all with a fifteen-foot telescope (ib. xxix. 401, xxx. 848, 1109). His account of some of them (ib. xxix. 506) was translated into Russian, and inserted in the St. Petersburg 'Kalendar' for 1737. Huygens's 123-foot object-glass, lent to Pound in 1717 by the Royal Society, was mounted by him in Wanstead Park on the maypole just removed from the Strand, and procured for the purpose by Sir Isaac Newton. A copy of verses affixed to it by a local wit began:

Once I adorned the Strand,
But now have found
My way to pound
In Baron Newton's land.

The inconveniences of the 'aerial' instrument thus formed were severely commented upon by J. Crosthwait (Baily, Flamsteed, p. 335). Nevertheless, it was by Pound turned to excellent account. His observations with it of the five known satellites of Saturn enabled Halley to 'rectify' their movements (Phil. Trans xxx. 772). Newton employed, in the third edition of the 'Principia' (pp. 390, 392 of Sir W. Thomson's reprint, 1871), his micrometrical measures of Jupiter's disc, of Saturn's disc and ring, and of the elongations of their satellites; and obtained from him data for correcting the places of the comet of 1680. That a quid pro quo was supplied appears from memoranda in the astronomer's pocket-book of two payments to him by Newton of 52l. 10s. each, in 1719 and 1720. Laplace also availed himself of Pound's observations of Jupiter's satellites for the determination of the planet's mass; and Pound himself compiled in 1719 a set of tables for the first satellite, into which he introduced an equation for the transmission of light (Phil. Trans. xxxi. 1021).

Pound was tenderly attached to his sister's son, James Bradley [q. v.] He trained him in astronomy, and many of their observations were made together. Those of the opposition of Mars in 1719, and of the transit of Mercury on 29 Oct. 1723, are examples (Bradley, Miscellaneous Works, pp. 353, 355). Their measurement of γ Virginis in 1718—the first made of the components of a double star—was directed towards the ascertainment of stellar parallax; and Pound doubtless aided in planning the operations upon γ Draconis which led Bradley to the discovery of the aberration of light.

Pound was a frequent visitor of Samuel Molyneux [q. v.] at Kew. He was commissioned by the Royal Society, in July 1723, to test Hadley's reflecting telescope, and reported favourably on its performance (ib. xxxii. 382). He died at Wanstead on 16 Nov. 1724, aged 55. His instruments were sold for 25l. He married, first, on 14 Feb. 1710, Sarah, widow of Edward Farmer, who died in June 1715; and secondly, in October 1722, Elizabeth, sister of Matthew Wymondesold, a successful speculator in South Sea stock, and proprietor of the Wanstead estate. She had a fortune of 10,000l. After her husband's death she resided with Bradley at Oxford, 1732–7, died on 10 Sept. 1740, and was buried at Wanstead. By his first wife Pound left a daughter Sarah, born on 16 Sept. 1713; she died at Greenwich, unmarried, on 19 Oct. 1747.

[Bradley's Miscellaneous Works, prefixed Memoir by Rigaud, pp. ii–ix, xviii, xxxix; Biogr. Brit. (Kippis), ii. 556; Lysons's Environs, iv. 240; Malcolm's Londinium Redivivum, iv. 281; Mädler's Geschichte der Himmelskunde, i. 408–9, 428, ii. 444; Wolf's Geschichte der Astronomie, pp. 484, 534, 676; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Poggendorff's Biogr.-lit. Handwörterbuch; Houzeau's Bibl. Astronomique; Thomson's Hist. of the Royal Society; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

A. M. C.