UCLan commissions sculpture of astronomer who changed our view of the solar system

Posted on - 8th December, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Education, Preston City Centre, Preston News, UCLan, University campus
Phil Garrett at work on the Jeremiah Horrocks sculpture Pic: UCLan

UCLan has commissioned an artist to create a sculpture of the artist who changed our view of the solar system.


The university asked Liverpool sculptor Phil Garrett to create a 7ft 6inch clay sculpture over the last 12 months.

The sculpture is of 17th century astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks who, almost 400 years ago, was the first person to both predict and observe a transit of Venus. His name is given to the city’s observatory in Moor Park.

This is an event where Venus is seen to pass in front of the face of the Sun, which enabled Jeremiah to estimate the size of the Solar System and prove that it is much larger than was previously thought.

The statue, which is one and a quarter life-size, was completed after Phil was invited to sit as artist in residence by UCLan Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy.

Phil in his studio Pic: UCLan

Phil said: “I’m passionate about celebrating Liverpool’s unsung heroes through my art and Jeremiah, who was born in Toxteth, was top of that list.

“I donated a miniature model of him to UCLan in 2014 so it feels like a natural progression to create this much larger version of the man.”

The 51-year-old used a measuring system practiced in Ancient Greece, known as linear enlargement, to scale up his model and then sculpt it around a metal frame using a quarter of a tonne of recycled clay.

Jeremiah’s face is based on the actor Nathan Morris, who played the astronomer in a 2012 travelling play about Jeremiah’s life called The Transit of Venus, and Phil wore traditional dress of the time while sculpting to make sure he could capture the folds of the material correctly.

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“I created six more designs after making my original miniature model and then began this final version seven months ago. This latter stage is about refining the small details to get it just right,” Phil added.

Phil’s model has now been captured in a silicon mould that can be used to cast the statue in bronze at a later stage and this clay model will soon be recycled.

Professor Derek Ward Thompson, Director of UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, said: “We are delighted with Phil’s brilliant reimagining of one of the founding fathers of English astronomy.

“Jeremiah sadly died at the young age of 23 and is largely unknown outside of the local astrophysics community. Through this statue we hope to celebrate his accomplishments and introduce more people to the man who set the foundations for how we view the size of the universe.

“Our hope is to have a statue of Jeremiah as a permanent fixture on campus and constant reminder of a visionary who deserves his place alongside the greats such as Isaac Newton and Galileo.”

Phil hopes to continue his relationship with the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute by creating a bust of Moses Holden, a Preston astronomer and one of the founders of The Institute for the Diffusion of Knowledge (now UCLan) in 1828.

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