S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Eddie, Major Lindsay Atkins (astronomy)

Born: 1845, Cape Town, South Africa.
Died: 31 October 1913, Grahamstown, South Africa.
Active in: SA.

Lindsay Atkins Eddie, son of army surgeon Dr W.C. Eddie, was an amateur astronomer in Grahamstown. He grew up in Grahamstown, joined the civil service of the Cape of Good Hope in April 1878 and by 1892 was clerk to judge Jones of the Eastern Districts Court. This court had earlier heard a libel case involving dean Williams of St. George's Cathedral, Grahamstown, versus W.B. Shaw (who had called the dean a liar), but the case was stopped as the jury could not agree. Churchwardens W.G. Atherstone* and Eddie were asked to analyse the judgment in the light of additional evidence not adduced at the trial. Their report was published in Grahamstown in 1884.

Over a period of some 20 years Eddie did military service. In 1876 he organised and commanded the Grahamstown Rifles during an invasion by the Xhosas and in 1885 was a lieutenant in command of the Bechuanaland expedition by Sir Charles Warren. By 1898 he held the rank of Major and was still living in Grahamstown, where he was one of the pall-bearers at the funeral of R.O.G. Drummond*. He remained clerk to judge Jones to 1901, when he retired on pension. However, on 1 March 1907 he was appointed as clerk to the Judge President of the Eastern Districts Court (J.G. Kotze) in Grahamstown, a post which he still held in 1910. He should not be confused with another Lindsay Eddie (Lindsay Edmond Ricards de Reverae Eddie), who was an assistant to the postmaster at Uitenhage (from 1898) and later at Barkley East (1905-1910).

Eddie was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and in 1880 described his observations of a comet in its Monthly Notices. He followed this up with a number of papers in the same journal during the next 20 years or more, for example: "Observations of Fabry's comet" (1886), "The southern comet; observations made at Graham's Town, Cape of Good Hope" (1888), "Observations of the transit of Mercury, 1894 November 10..." (1895), "Observations of Swift's comet, 1899..." (1899), and "Tempel's comet (1873 II-c, 1899)..." (1899). Though he observed a total of 21 comets over the years, he did not discover any himself. Three more papers by him appeared in Popular Astronomy during the same period, on the lunar eclipse of 11 March 1895 (1895), the spectrum of gamma-Argus (1896), and a curious meteor trail seen at Grahamstown on 22 October 1895 (1896). He also contributed a dozen or so items to the Journal of the British Astronomical Association, including notes on an auroral display (1894), a brilliant meteor (1894), colours and spectra of 100 southern stars (1894), and the conjunction of the moon with Venus (1903). In 1907 he made observations of Mars at the time of its opposition. Eddie crater on Mars was named in his honour.

His instruments included a 76 mm refractor by Newton of London, and a more powerful 240 mm reflector. The highlight of his observational career was probably the transit of Venus on 6 December 1882, which he observed from Fort Selwyn, near Grahamstown. He was assisted by J.S. Willcox, a jeweler and several times mayor of Grahamstown, who provided a chronometer with which to time the observations. The chronometer was corrected by means of a series of telegraphed time signals arranged by D. Gill* and W.H. Finlay* of the Royal Observatory in Cape Town. Only the first half of the transit could be observed before sunset.

Between 1881 and 1898 Eddie regularly published his observations, mainly of comets and eclipses, in the Grahamstown Journal. He described the appearance and position of an unnamed comet in May and June 1881, Fabry's comet in May 1886, an unnamed comet in January 1887; Swift's comet in April 1892, and Gale's comet in May 1894. When Fabry's comet (discovered in 1885) first became visible in the southern hemisphere some amateur astronomers in Port Elizabeth confused it with Barnard's comet and Eddie described the movements of the two bodies to set the record straight. And when the Cape Times referred disparagingly to the Royal Observatory in Cape Town as being poorly equipped to observe Gale's comet, he rushed to the defense by describing its excellent equipment (1 May 1894). His other observations included lunar eclipses in January and July 1888, March 1895, and July 1898; a partial eclipse of the sun in June 1889; and a storm with dark coloured rain in August 1888.

In August 1892 Eddie delivered a lecture on the opposition of Mars before the Eastern Province Literary and Scientific Society in Grahamstown, of which he was a member. He was also a foundation member of the South African Geological Association (1888-1890), which originated in Grahamstown. From 1883 to 1891 or longer he served on the management committee of the Albany Museum. He was interested also in meteorology and was skilled in the use of the microscope and camera.

List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope. Catalogue of the natural history collections of the Albany Museum, Grahamstown (Appendix to Parliamentary Report G24-'83). Cape Town: W.A. Richards & Sons, 1883.

Cape of Good Hope. Civil service list 1892, 1894, 1896, 1897, 1899, 1901, 1908, 1910.

EP Magazine, October 1892, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 2-4: The origin and progress of the society.

Google scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by L.A. Eddie.

Grahamstown Journal, 31 May 1881, p. 4 and 2 June 1881 (observations of comet); 11 December 1882, p. 3, "Transit of Venus"; 3 May 1886, p. 2, 5 May 1886, p. 3 and 7 May 1886, p. 3, "Fabry's comet"; 27 January 1887, p. 3 and 1 February 1887, p. 2, "Another great southern comet"; 24 September 1887, p. 2, "Albany Museum"; 31 January 1888, p. 3 (lunar eclipse); 24 July 1888, p. 2 (lunar eclipse); 28 August 1888, p. 3, "The rain of ink"; 29 June 1889, p. 2, "Eclipse of the sun"; 11 February 1890, p. 2, "Albany Museum"; 12 February 1891, p. 3, "Albany Museum"; 5 April 1892, p. 3 and 14 April 1892, p. 2 (Switf's comet); 1 May 1894, p. 3 and 8 May 1894, p. 3 (Gale's comet); 14 March 1895, p.2 (lunar eclipse); 28 June 1898, p. 3, "The funeral of Mr Drummond"; 2 July 1898, p. 3 (partial lunar eclipse).

Lindsay Atkins Eddie. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1914, Vol. 74, p. 274.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Lindsay Atkins Eddie / L.A. Eddie/Major Eddie.

Plug, C. & Levin, G. The South African Geological Association (1888-1890). Africana Notes and News, 1991, Vol. 29(7), pp. 251-261.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Compiled by: C. Plug

Last updated: 2020-04-23 17:30:14