The Germans were not the only ones who had an astronomer during the 1700s. And who says astronomers just have to be interested in stars and telescopes? December 1798, Thomas James Henderson was born. Astronomy was his calling, but it was not his first choice. After graduating from high school, he was educated as a lawyer and as a cartoonist! Apparently, this guy was smart and knew how to draw. Though he was taking his job seriously, the fire of his love for astronomy was bursting. Mathematics was just a hobby for the young Henderson.
Apparently, his peculiar interest was not just plain observing and star-gazing. He had caught Thomas Young’s eye, when he, this man who in his luxury hours was developing his skills in astronomy and mathematics, had managed to develop a way of using the moon’s occultation to measure longitude. With Mister Young’s guidance, the eager Henderson was more than willing to explore his true desire to learn more about heavenly bodies. During the 1800s, he had made remarkable observations when he was based in South Africa. It did not take long since then that he had managed to use parallax to measure the southern Centaurus’ brightest star, Alpha Centauri’s distance to the Earth. Little did he know that publishing this was going to be a semi-competition, considering that another astronomer from Germany had also done his own parallax measurement for another star.
Thomas Jane Henderson returned to his roots and goes back to Scotland, but does not resume legal profession. Though he may not have received the first world-wide acclaim for the parallax with the Alpha Centauri, Scotland was more than thankful to have him back home. He will always be Scotland’s number one, and just to prove it, he is appointed the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland. After serving for the University of Edinburgh, he had worked at the City Observatory of Edinburgh until he passed away.