How famous Preston astronomer is benefiting the stargazers of today

Posted on - 29th October, 2017 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Preston News, UCLan, University campus
Tom Davison is the first to receive the help from the Moses Holden Fund
Tom Davison is the first to receive the help from the Moses Holden Fund

Wannabe stargazers are going to be able to reach for the stars thanks to a new bursary at Preston’s university.


The Moses Holden Studentship Fund is the brainchild of Patrick Holden – who is making the money available in memory of his three times great grandfather.

Moses Holden, who lived from 1777 to 1864, was a famous astronomer and gave public lectures in the subject in Preston, the North West and Midlands throughout the Victorian times.

He was also one of the founding fathers of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge in 1828 which is the founding organisation of what is now the University of Central Lancashire.

Patrick said; “As a family we knew of course of Moses’ fame as an astronomer, for example corresponding with the then Astronomer Royal as ‘My Dear Friend’. However, we did not know of his involvement with the Institute, now the University, until we learnt of it from the publication of Steve Halliwell’s splendid biography of Moses.

“The University has been good enough to honour Moses by naming their new telescope after him. We felt we should help the University in some way. We decided to create the bursary for an astrophysics PhD and also, as and when a suitable site can be found for it, to pass on an oil painting of Moses dating back from about 1827, painted about the same time as he helped found the Institute. Meanwhile we wish Tom Davison every success.”

Read more: Medical students left homeless by Hurricane Irma to study in Preston

The first student to embark on the astronomy journey is 21-year-old Tom Davidson.

He graduated in the summer with a first-class in astrophysics and is now using the money to spend the next three-and-a-half years continuing to study for a doctorate.

Tom said: “It’s fantastic and such a great honour to receive this studentship, especially because it’s named after such an important person.

“I will be using this studentship to research dwarf galaxies, I will be observing and trying to make sense of some dwarf galaxies and I will be getting new data.”

Moses Holden also has the university’s £200,000 telescope at its Alston Observatory named after him.

Read more: Preston’s observatory is being opened to the public again

Director of the university’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute said: We are delighted Patrick has decided to honour Moses in this special way. This studentship is a fabulous opportunity for students to continue their studies into a subject area which Moses was so passionate about.

“For Moses’ lectures he had constructed a large orrery, with which he demonstrated the motions of the Earth, the Moon and the planets in the solar system. He projected an image of the orrery on to a large screen and filled theatres with enthusiastic members of the public, who paid to hear about the latest advances in astronomy. We will also be delighted to receive the oil portrait of founder Moses in time for our bicentenary in 2028.”

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