About this blog

IMG_0125_3This blog is a companion to the Twitter feed of the manuscript logs of Edmond Halley’s three voyages in the Paramore and provides background information to the feed @HalleysLog. The blog and Twitter account are run by Halley’s Clerk (@HalleysClerk), originally under the pseudonym Kate Morant.

Halley made three government-funded voyages for the improvement of navigation, the earliest having a strong claim to being the first publicly-funded expedition for purely scientific purposes. Halley made two voyages round the Atlantic Ocean, primarily to measure magnetic declination, and a third voyage to survey the tides in the English Channel. His logbooks for these voyages cover the following periods:

  • Voyage 1 (Atlantic): 20 October 1698 to 11 July 1699 (ended prematurely)
  • Voyage 2 (Atlantic): 16 September 1699 to 10 September 1700
  • Voyage 3 (Channel): 14 June 1701 to 16 October 1701

The logbooks were first tweeted as part of this project between 2012-15, and voyages 1 and 2 were repeated on Twitter between 2016-18. The transcription of the logbooks is my own.

All dates are Old Style (OS), but using January 1 as the start of the year rather than March 25. Hence, 10 January 1698/99 is here shown as 10 January 1699 (which is 20 January 1699 New Style).

About Edmond Halley (@HalleysLog)

Edmond Halley FRS (1656–1742) was an astronomer and mathematician, whose work ranged across physics, barometry, meteorology, hydrology, cartography and geophysics. More surprisingly, perhaps, he was also a sea captain, undertaking three voyages for scientific purposes between 1698 and 1701.

He was born in Haggerston (about two miles north of the old City wall) to a wealthy soap-boiler, also Edmond, and his wife Anne. He attended St Paul’s School and Queen’s College, Oxford, which he left before taking his degree in order to sail to St Helena to map the southern stars. He received an MA by royal mandate on his return, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society on 30 November 1678, aged 22.

Halley was elected Clerk to the Royal Society in 1686, and in 1687 he oversaw – and paid for – the publication of Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

He served in the regional mint at Chester during the Great Recoinage of the 1690s and in 1698 he set out on the first of his three voyages in HMS Paramore. At the end of these, Halley was soon travelling again, undertaking two missions to survey sites and oversee construction of harbour fortifications in the Adriatic.

In January 1704, Halley was elected Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, and so returned to more scholarly pursuits; he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws degree by the university in 1710.

In a paper published in 1705, Astronomiae Cometicae Synopsis, Halley proposed that the comets of 1531, 1607 and 1682 were one and the same and predicted that it would return in 1758. It did, and ever since has been popularly known as ‘Halley’s Comet’ (official designation 1P/Halley).

In 1713 Halley was elected Secretary of the Royal Society, and in 1720 he succeeded John Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal at Greenwich.

Halley married Mary Tooke in 1682 and the couple had three children surviving to adulthood. Mary died in 1736 and Edmond in 1742, and they are buried together in the graveyard of the old church of St Margaret in Lee, just south of the Greenwich Observatory.

About Halley’s Clerk (@HalleysClerk)

I took a degree in Medieval and Modern History in the 1980s, but ever since I’ve worked in an unrelated (and uncongenial) field. However, after becoming interested in Halley in 2010, I was motivated to return to university to do a Master’s degree in Early Modern History at Birkbeck, and I wrote my dissertation on Halley’s maritime science. In January 2017 I started a part-time PhD at Birkbeck on Halley’s social and cultural world, but a health problem (ITP) caused me to withdraw from it, although I might continue to research Halley independently.

I have closed comments and my Contact page, but my Twitter accounts are still open. The Sources page lists the main biographical works about Halley.

22 thoughts on “About

  1. Pingback: A Glonk comes up roses: Giants’ Shoulders #62: Alpha Papa | The Renaissance Mathematicus

  2. Pingback: After Giants’ Shoulders is before Giants’ Shoulders. | The Renaissance Mathematicus

  3. Hi Kate,
    This is a wonderful blog. Wondering if you know the whereabouts of the model plans of the Paramore? We have an actual model of it here at the Clark Library, but curious to know if you’ve seen the plans. Thanks!

    • Hi Nina
      Thanks very much for your kind comment – and even more for the news that you have a model of the Paramore at the Clark Library! Did that arrive via Norman Thrower, and was it based on the reconstruction in his book? (That drawing’s on my blog here: https://halleyslog.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/halleys-ship-the-paramore-pink/) Is there an image you could send me? I looked on your site but didn’t see one – my contact details are at the top of this page or via twitter.

      I haven’t come across the model plans of the ship and I’ve rather assumed they’re nowhere obvious, as neither Cook nor Thrower apparently found them. I have seen random plans in boxes of loose manuscript letters at the National Archives and hoped I might chance upon the Paramore’s, but no luck as yet (tho I haven’t pursued this systematically). If I do encounter the plans, I’ll let you know! I tend to think the reconstruction in Thrower isn’t that accurate as most ships of the period seem to have a very differently shaped hull, so finding the plans would be enlightening.

  4. Hi Kate,
    I’ll bring my camera tomorrow to take a photo. I’m actually heading to London in November and was thinking about making some inquiries at the National Maritime Museum when I’m there.
    The model we have was a gift of Dr. & Mrs. Charles Heiskell in 1982. I have seen Thrower’s book and the sketch of the Paramore (he was Director of the Clark Library a number of years ago).

    • Thanks, Nina, that’ll be great. I believe Thrower wrote his book in the Clark Library, so it’s fitting you should have the model. I’m off to the NMM to have another look at their ship models next week and spend some time in the library. Be sure to visit their Longitude exhibition if you go there btw, it’s fantastic!

  5. Pingback: Halley's Eclipse: a coup for Newtonian prediction and the selling of science | HetPodium

  6. Pingback: Halley’s Eclipse: a coup for Newtonian prediction and the selling of science | News From Reading

  7. Hello Kate
    A very impressive account of Halley,the quality of which i have been looking for,for some time.Could you tell me where Halley would have been between the dates of 9th April 1688 and 22nd January 1689 and if there is an unaccounted for period of 18months in his life.history.

    • Hi Dave
      Thanks very much for your kind comment. I’ll be starting a PhD on Halley in Sept 2016, and I’m intending to start tweeting his logs again from October and will probably revise a few of the blog posts then (given I was such a novice the first time round!).

      The period you mention is also of interest to me, as he was surveying the Thames approaches during that time – very surprising, given the political events (William III ousting James II) of winter 1688/89. He made remarks about places around the S/E coasts at Royal Society meetings during the summer of 1688 (the last on 1 Aug), but the minutes don’t supply any context, so it isn’t clear whether his remarks derive from any surveying activities. He attended the RS meeting on 6 March 1689, when he read a paper about a “diving Engine”, and on 22 March, Hooke records “Hally a Sayling” and that he returned on 3 April. On 3 July, he presented his chart of the Thames approaches to the RS.

      These are the activities I have notes about during that period – although I was only noting his presence when he made reference to any maritime activities, so he may have been at other meetings during that time. One of the things I hope to do during my PhD is compile a database of his attendance at Royal Society meetings to help pin down his whereabouts, although I’m not sure that’ll be feasible time-wise.

      I’m not sure there’s an 18-month gap in his life history – when did you think that might be? Records about him are pretty minimal, but he seems to have been a fairly constant presence in the RS minutes from about 1683, although my focus to date has been on the 1680s/90s.

      • Kate
        Thanks for replying,the reason I ask is that myself and an associate have been researching a place called Oak Island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia which you may or not have heard of.To cut a long story short we have found that Halley may have been involved as Halley’s comet and certain Constellations have been used to plot certain locations on the Island,in particular the comets of the years 218,1378,1531 and 1607.His name and birthdate have been encrypted into what is known as the Welling Triangle by use of the angles within the triangle and we are assuming that he may have actually been on that island during those dates given or possibly some other period.His birthdate of the 8th Nov 1656 is of interest too,is there a birth certificate actually showing that date or do you think he may have altered it.

        • Hi Dave
          Halley would never have given his birth date as 8 Nov, as that is the date by the Gregorian calendar, which Britain only adopted a decade after his death. By the contemporary Julian calendar, his birth date is 29 Oct 1656.

          I would also think that any reference to his comet would date the reference to after 1758, since it only became ‘his’ comet when it returned at the end of that year as he’d predicted. He made predictions about other comets and celestial events too, so didn’t necessarily have any particular attachment to that comet during his life.

  8. Thankyou Kate,you have given me some very useful information I would never have found for myself,I wish you well in your chosen profession.

  9. Kate,
    I’m also very interested in the life of Sir Edmond Halley and currently constructing a timeline on his life. I was wondering if Halley could’ve been back in Danzig, Poland between Johannes Hevelius’s death in 1687 and 1690. The reason I ask is that Hevelius’s second wife, Elizabeth, supposedly edited her husband’s Star Catalog before she published it in 1690. I was wondering if Halley might have had a hand in the editing. By the way, I applaud you on choosing Halley as a topic for your PhD. I look forward to reading your dissertation. I’m currently working with Dave and any help you can give us would be extremely appreciated. I also might have some interesting info involving Halley for you if you would like to see it.

    • Hi Chris
      Yes, Halley’s great, although not without his faults (he was never a ‘Sir’ btw). I found a note on page 117 of MacPike’s, Hevelius, Flamsteed and Halley (London, 1937) which suggests it’s very unlikely that Halley helped Elisabeth with the editing or publication of Hevelius’s catalogue. MacPike’s note refers to a letter (in Latin) from Elisabeth to Dr Thomas Gale at the Royal Society asking for assistance in editing Hevelius’s works:

      Here, again, we are indebted to the Royal Society for permission to photostat the original (Guard-book, 2, 68). Madame Hevelius appeals for the assistance of English scholars in the editing of her late husband’s unpublished works. The Journal Book and records of the Royal Society do not indicate that any action was taken on this letter. It would appear to have been ignored. Nor is there any evidence that any English astronomers participated in the task undertaken by Madame Hevelius. Francis Baily says that she had little to do other than send the sheets to the press for the ‘Prodromus Astronomiæ’, as Hevelius had virtually completed the work before his death, 28 January, 1687 (see M.R.A.S., 1843, vol. xiii, p. 45). There is evidence, however, that Madame Hevelius did have the assistance of John Ernest Schmieden (see L.C.B., 1875, pp. 638—9).

      Thanks for the offer of some Halley-related info – if you don’t want to put it in a comment, there’s a contact email near the top of the About page. I’m hoping to pin down Halley’s weekly whereabouts during my PhD, but that will take a very long time (I only study part-time), and I need to complete my MA dissertation on him first, so back to it…

      • Thank you for your quick response. I’m glad someone else had the same idea that the Royal Society, or Halley, could’ve helped in the editing of the star catalog. I think Halley would’ve been the natural choice, considering he had been there prior and had a good relationship with him. Keep up the good work!

  10. Kate,
    Have you come across any correspondence between Sir William Phips and Halley? I think it would’ve been around 1688 -1690. Phips had returned to England after his success on the ship wreck and using a diving bell. Shortly after, Halley began his work on the diving bell.

    • Hi Chris
      I haven’t encountered any correspondence or contact between Halley and Phips, but I do think it’s likely that Phips’s success prompted Halley’s interest in diving and salvage. In the first paper he wrote on the subject, he refers to the “pearle divers in the West Indies, who have lately been made use of to very good purpose in the recovering of the plate lost in the Spanish wrack [wreck]”. The paper was read to the Royal Society in March 1689 (RS, Cl.P/21/28), and presumably the reference is to Phips’s operation. You perhaps know that Phips’s success ignited a boom in diving-related stock companies in the 1690s, which is an interesting topic in itself.

      • Thanks Kate,

        I think that Halley had his own wreck to dive on after his improvements. I haven’t researched the full details, but I think it was an African East Indies ship that sank and then they hired him. I was hoping Phips was secretly transporting Halley back and forth to the New World, but they are in the wrong places most of the time, except after Phips return.


        • Hi Chris, I wrote about Halley’s work on the Royal African Company wreck here, though the details of the operation are fairly sparse. Thanks for the document you sent me. Kate

  11. John Davy Breholt and Capt Davy Breholt are two different people. Capt Davy Breholt was born in Lyme Regis, Dorset in 1655, married Elizabeth, and by 1696 was living in St John’s Parish, Wapping (East London) where there was a RN yard. His father’s name was George Breholt of Lyme Regis. Good friend of my ancestor, George Alford, who died aboard the HMS Lynn in 1696. (I wondered why “pirates” kept coming up googling!)

    Enjoyable blog!

    • Hi Lora, thanks for your comment – although I’m rather mystified by it as I cannot see that I’ve ever referred to anyone called Breholt on my blog (a site search produced no results). I do refer to HMS Lynn, but your Breholt clarification is puzzling!

Comments are closed.