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Joseph Norman Lockyer

Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer (May 17, 1836 – August 16, 1920) was an English scientist and astronomer. Along with the French scientist Pierre Janssen he is credited with discovering the gas helium.


  Lockyer was born at Rugby in Warwickshire. After a conventional schooling suplemented by travel in Switzerland and France, he worked for some years as a civil servant in the British War office. He settled in Wimbledon in south London after marrying Winifred James. A keen amateur astronomer with a particular interest in the sun, Lockyer eventually became director of the solar physics observatory in Kensington London.

In the 1860s he became fascinated by electromagnetic spectroscopy as an analytical tool for determining the gas composition of heavenly bodies. Lockyer identified a yellow strip in the spectrum of the sun that conventional scientific opinion of the time held as a known element under extraordinary circumstances. To Lockyer it suggested the existence of a previously unknown element in the sun. He named this element Helium after the Greek word 'Helios' meaning 'sun'. Lockyer's discovery was eventually confirmed in the 1890s. To facilitate the transmission of ideas between scientific disciplines, Lockyer established the general science journal Nature in 1869. He remained its editor until shortly before his death. After his retirement in 1911, Lockyer established an observatory near his home in Salcombe Regis near Sidmouth, Devon.

Originally known as the Hill Observatory, the site was renamed the Norman Lockyer Observatory after his death. For a time the observatory was a part of the University of Exeter, but is now owned by the East Devon District Council, and run by the Norman Lockyer Observatory Society. The Norman Lockyer Chair in Astrophysics at the University of Exeter is currently held by Professor Tim Naylor, who heads a star formation group there. Lockyer crater on the Moon and Lockyer crater on Mars are named after him. Lockyer died at his home in Salcombe Regis in 1920.


  • Elementary Lessons in Astronomy (1868-94)
  • Questions on Astronomy (1870)
  • Contributions to Solar Physics (1873)
  • Star-Gazing, Past and Present (1877)
  • Studies in Spectral Analysis (1878)
  • Report to the Committee on Solar Physics on the Basic Lines Common to Spots and Prominences (1880)
  • The Movements of the Earth (1887)
  • The Chemistry of the Sun (1887)
  • The Meteorite Hypothesis (1890)
  • The Dawn of Astronomy (1894)
  • The Sun's Place in Nature (1897)
  • Recent and Coming Eclipses (1900)
  • Inorganic Evolution as Studied by Spectrum Analysis (1900)
  • The Influence of Brain Power in History (1903)
  • Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered (1906; second edition, 1909)
  • Education and National Progress: Essays and Addresses, 1870-1905 (1907)
  • Surveying for Archœologists (1909)
  • Tennyson as a Student and Poet of Nature (1910)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Joseph_Norman_Lockyer". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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