Jeremiah Horrocks

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Jeremiah Horrocks

Also Known As: "Jeremiah Horrox"
Birthdate: (23)
Birthplace: Lower Lodge Farm, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, England
Death: January 3, 1641 (23)
Toxteth Park, Liverpool, England (Suddenly due to unknown causes)
Occupation: Astronomer
Managed by: Christine Cheryl Briggs
Last Updated:

About Jeremiah Horrocks


Previous to June 5, 2012 the tree shows his parents as Adam Horrocks and Alice Chowe. It shows him with six other siblings. No source documentation exists (on to substantiate these family relationship claims. A book entitled "Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Reverend Jeremiah Horrox", written in 1875 does not seem to indicate anything at all about his family whatsoever and lists neither parents or siblings.

Other researchers favor parent names of James Horrocks and Mary Aspinwall.

See also Whatton, Arundell Blount; "Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Reverend Jeremiah Horrox"; Published by William Hunt and Company; London 1875. and Martston, Paul; History of Jeremiah Horrocks. Extracted from course notes for Great Astronomers in History Distance Learning course, Centre for Astrophysics;

Wikipedia Biographical Summary:

"...Jeremiah Horrocks, sometimes given as Jeremiah Horrox (the Latinised version that he used on the Emmanuel College register and in his Latin manuscripts), was an English astronomer. He was the first person to demonstrate that the Moon moved around the Earth in an elliptical orbit and was the only person to predict the transit of Venus of 1639, an event which he and his friend William Crabtree were the only two people to observe and record.

His treatise on the transit, Venus in sole visa, was almost lost to science due to his early death and the chaos brought about by the English civil war, but for this and his other work he has since been hailed as the father of British astronomy..."


Biographical Summary #2:

"...Details of Horrocks’s brief life are scant and sometimes uncertain. He died on January 3rd 1641, and Dr John Wallis, who entered Emmanuel College with Horrocks and edited his Opera Posthuma in 1673, says that he was in his twenty third year. However, Horrocks matriculated at the University of Cambridge on 5 July 1632, and for this he had to be fourteen according to the regulations. His birth was therefore between January and July 1618.

His family home was at Toxteth Park, now a suburb of Liverpool but then a country hamlet of some two dozen houses with an area called “Otterspool”. It was once believed that his father was a farmer William Horrocks and such a man did indeed live in Toxteth , but the evidence points more to his father as James Horrocks, a watchmaker. The main evidence for this is a remark made by Horrocks’s friend William Crabtree (1610-1644) in a letter to William Gasgoigne (1612-1642) that Jeremiah’s father “died May 3, 1641, grief for his son hastening his own death.” Flamsteed (the first Astronomer Royal) transcribed this letter in the 1670’s, and the Bishop’s transcript records the burial of a James Horrocks of Toxteth on May 4th in St. Nicholas Church, at the Liverpool pierhead. Unfortunately the baptismal records at this church for 1618 (the probable year of Horrocks’s birth + christening) are missing. There is also a possibility that the family had come originally from the Deane district of Bolton, where some have suggested Jeremiah was born. A Jonas Horrocks was baptized in Bolton in 1622 – and Jeremiah refers to a brother Jonas of whom there is no other record. Assertions of his birth in Toxteth were made in the 1832 Emmanuel College register itself, in 1859 by fellow Emmanuel student John Worthington (who later preserved his papers), and in 1773 by Emmanuel Fellow George William Bennet in a register of students in 1773 referring to Horrocks as a “very curious astronomer”. Toxteth therefore seems the almost certain birthplace..."

"...The Chester register of marriage licenses records the marriage on January 17th 1615 of Jeremiah’s parents James Horrocks and Mary Aspinwall. His mum’s brother (as various contemporary documents make clear) was Edward Aspinwall (1567-1632) a prominent watchmaker..."

"...Jeremiah Horrocks (registered Horrox) entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, as a Sizar on May 11th 1632. A Sizar or poor student might have to wait on tables or perform other chores, and probably survived on very low funds,.."

"...In 1635 Horrocks returned to Toxteth, aged about 17. He did not graduate, although this was not all that unusual. Sometimes the expense of graduating was delayed until it might be used to gain a curacy or some preferment. We do not know what he did back in Toxteth, but he must have spent much spare time on astronomy..."

"...Was Horrocks a curate at Hoole? He is so named on the plaque now in St Michael’s Hoole.."

"...On 1st June 1639 Horrocks wrote to Crabtree: “Next week I remove to Hoole, a village about 5 miles from Preston.” Much Hoole was a small, damp country village, set between “the Moss” to the East and North, the wetlands of the coast and down to Martin Mere on the West and South. We have no certainty about what he did in Hoole, but the strong tradition is that he was tutor to the children at Carr House..."

"...Most crucially, none of Horrocks’s friends or contemporaries mention any ordination or refer to him either as “Rev Mr Horrox” or “Rev Jeremiah Horrox”..."

Transit of Venus:

"...“I watched carefully on the 24th from sunrise to nine o’clock, and from a little before ten until noon, and at one in the afternoon, being called away in the intervals by business of the highest importance which, for these ornamental pursuits, I could not with propriety neglect. But during all this time I saw nothing in the sun except a small and common spot… This evidently had nothing to do with Venus. About fifteen minutes past three in the afternoon, when I was again at liberty to continue my labours, the clouds, as if by divine interposition, were entirely dispersed, and I was once more invited to the grateful task of repeating my observations. I then beheld a most agreeable spectacle, the object of my sanguine wishes, a spot of unusual magnitude and of a perfectly circular shape, which had already fully centred upon the sun’s disc on the left, so that the limbs of the Sun and Venus precisely coincided, forming an angle of contact. Not doubting that this was really the shadow of the planet, I immediately applied myself sedulously to observe it..."


"...Horrocks’s letters from Hoole cover 8th June 1639 to 12th April 1640 after which he returned (by summer 1640) to his family in Toxteth. We do not know what his employment was, but he continued to write to his friend Crabtree concerning astronomical matters. He died very suddenly on 3rd January 1641, we do not know what from. Crabtree lamented this sudden loss, on the very day before Horrocks had planned a trip to see him. Horrocks is believed to have been buried in an unmarked grave in (possibly actually inside the building) the old Toxteth chapel..."

SOURCE: Martston, Paul; History of Jeremiah Horrocks

Extracted from course notes for Great Astronomers in History Distance Learning course, Centre for Astrophysics;

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Jeremiah Horrocks's Timeline

Toxteth Park, Liverpool, England
May 11, 1632
- 1635
Age 14
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
January 3, 1641
Age 23
Toxteth Park, Liverpool, England