Moses Holden (1777-1864)

Moses Holden was born in Bolton, England, in 1777, the son of a hand-loom weaver. From a young age, Holden had a keen interest in astronomy, collecting an extensive collection of books and creating quite a library on the subject. Over his lifetime, he built an orrery (model solar system), and an early form of projector called a magic lantern. He began giving public lectures on optics and astronomy to large crowds across the north of England, using these tools to great effect and awe of attendees. He was a member of the Mechanics' Institute and made telescopes and microscopes, including grinding the glass lenses for these instruments.

The University of Central Lancashire, home of the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for mathematics, physics and astronomy was originally founded as the “Preston Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge.” One of the founders is listed modestly as “Moses Holden, Gentleman.” Holden, indeed, a self-taught astronomer, give some of the first lectures of the new institute on optics.

Moses Holden’s name is remembered in the commission of the Moses Holden Telescope at Alston Observatory as part of the University of Central Lancashire. A state-of-the-art 0.7m Planewave CDK700 telescope is used for undergraduate teaching and encouraging public engagement in science. His name also continues in the Moses Holden Studentships at the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, which funds Ph.D. students at the university in astronomy. The studentship is funded by great-great-great grandson Patrick Holden.

I am particularly grateful to Patrick for his continued support of my studentship as I complete my Ph.D. at the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute.

Steven Gough-Kelly
Steven Gough-Kelly
PhD | Galactic Dynamics