Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Planets & pocket diaries: Thomas and Warren De La Rue

A Physics professor from Albion (Hi Nicolle! J) asked about why there was a picture of Jupiter in one of the little pocket diaries belonging to my great-great grandmother, Charlotte Lane.  And so I took a closer a look at it and the answer is really quite fascinating. After some pages pertaining to different calendars (the Hebrew calendar / the Mohammedan Calendar), plus a very detailed Calendar for England that lists such important events as the end of Pheasant shooting (Wed. Feb 1st) or the day the King of Sardinia was born (March 14) and numerous other tables to do with measurements of various kinds there comes a very detailed section entitled “astronomical phenomena”. This part lists information about the planets, eclipses, occultations visible at Greenwich, eclipses of Jupiter’s satellites(!) and then a detailed description of where each of the planets will be in the night sky throughout the year. It talks about other stars too: Algol and Mira Ceti. Then finally we come to a section entitled: “The Planet Jupiter”—which starts out as follows:

“The engraving, which we this year present to our readers is the result of a careful examination of the physical peculiarities of the planet Jupiter made by Mr. Warren De La Rue, with the aid of a fine reflecting telescope, thirteen inches in aperture, on October 25th 1856.”

Warren De La Rue's description of the planet Jupiter.

As it turns out Warren De La Rue was an astronomer known particularly for his astronomical photographs! And not only that but he was the son of Thomas De La Rue, who was the producer of these little diaries and of course to top it all off they were both from Guernsey (or as this youtube video calls it "the stunning Bailiwick of Guernsey") —ground zero genealogically speaking for many of my ancestors. And you thought the only good thing to come out of Guernsey were cows…. ;-) 
It seems more than likely that Charlotte's pal -- "dear Lord Saumarez" who gets more mentions in the diaries than her husband (whom she routinely refers to as Taylor, as opposed to Philpotts....) gifted her these diaries because they too both haled from said stunning Balliwick. I haven't figured out yet how they both came to live within walking distance of each other on the main land--coincidence? 


  1. Very interesting! Would your grandmother (or her pal) have know De La Rue?

  2. I'll need to more research but I'm sure she knew of him (and his father). My sense is that the Guernsey-ites were a pretty tight bunch and tended to stick together, where ever they ended up. I think a thorough perusal of all three diaries will yield more stories/surprises...