American Philosophical Society
Member History

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1Name:  Nevil Maskelyne
 Year Elected:  1771
 Residency:  International
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  10/5/1732
 Death Date:  2/9/1811
Nevil Maskelyne (5 October 1732–9 February 1811) was an astronomer, and mathematician, and a member of the American Philosophical Society, elected in 1771. Born in London, the son of a well-connected clerk, Maskelyne was educated in Westminster where he decided to pursue astronomy. He attended the University of Cambridge, graduating with a B.A. in 1754. To qualify for an advantageous fellowship, he took Holy Orders a year later, and became a fellow of the Trinity. He graduated with his M.A., and earned election to his major fellowship the following year. In 1758 he became a fellow of the Royal Society, who assigned him to St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic, to observe the transit of Venus in 1760. While traveling, Maskelyne began studying the lunar-distance method of measuring longitude for nautical navigation. On St. Helena, he found little success due to cloudy weather, but he continued studying the lunar-distance method on his return trip and published his findings in 1763. Impressed by his work, the Board of Longitude tasked Maskelyne with testing the accuracy of the H4 chronometer by using his method to measure the longitude of Barbados. He returned to England to find a royal warrant appointing him director of the Greenwich observatory. As director, Maskelyne implemented the yearly publishing of a nautical almanac. As per order of the King, he resided at the observatory and focused on astronomical observations: making some 90,000 in his lifetime and publishing findings every decade. He also contributed to the far more successful 1769 transit of Venus observations. In 1774, he attempted to measure the density of the Earth on behalf of the Royal Society and won its Copley Medal for his findings. He received honors from institutions all over the world, including those in Hanover, Russia, Poland, France, and Massachusetts. He worked tirelessly at the observatory until falling ill and dying there. (DNB)
Election Year
1771 (1)