John Tebbutt


John Tebbutt was a pioneer in the field of astronomy and lived his whole life in the Hawkesbury district. John Tebbutt was born on the 25th May 1834 Windsor NSW, the son of John Tebbutt and Virginia nee Saunders. From about 1839 he was educated in Windsor by Edward Quaife, who instilled in Tebbutt a love of astronomy. He was later taught by Reverend Matthew Adam, the Presbyterian minister and Reverend Henry Stiles the Anglican minister in Windsor.
Tebbutt bought his first instrument, a marine sextant in 1853. Several years later John Tebbutt married Jane Pendergast on the 8th September 1857 at St. Matthew's Church of England, Windsor. They had 6 daughters and 1 son.
In 1861 Tebbutt discovered the Great Comet 1861 (Comet Tebbutt II 1861) The following year, Mr W. Scott the government astronomer resigned and the position as NSW Government Astronomer was offered to Tebbutt. He however declined the position to concentrate on his own work. He joined the Philosophical (Royal) Society of NSW.
In 1863 he had constructed the first of several observatories on the family property at the "Peninsula" at Windsor. This area is known as the Peninsula or sometimes Peninsular as it is at the confluence of South Creek & the Hawkesbury River. ("Peninsula House" was constructed by his father in 1845 and is still standing.)
John Tebbutt was highly regarded overseas and his observations assisted in advancing astronomy in Australia and also internationally. He won a silver medal at the 1867 Paris Universal exhibition for a scientific report he had published. John Tebbutt was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in London in 1873 for his contribution to astronomy. In 1879 he built a substantial brick observatory and library building at the Peninsular, the Equatorial room was built in 1894. This same year he observed the Transit of Venus.
To assist with his observations, in 1886 he purchased a Grubb 8 inch equatorial refractor. He was elected the first president of the NSW Branch of the British Astronomical Association in 1895.
For his service to astronomy in Australia he was awarded the prestigious Hannah Jackson nee Gwilt gift and bronze medal from the Royal Astronomical Society, London in 1905 and published "Astronomical Memoirs" in 1908. During his life he published 371 articles including booklets, reports and journals. Tebbutt also regularly kept rainfall and flood level statistics during his lifetime. John Tebbutt died on the 29th November 1916, aged 82 years. His funeral was one of the largest ever held in Windsor. He is buried in a vault which he personally designed at St. Matthew's Church of England Cemetery Windsor. In honour of Tebbutt's achievements, the International Astronomical Union renamed a lunar crater on the moon in 1973.
On the 26th March 1984 Tebbutt appeared on the new $100 note. (Sir Douglas Mawson the Antarctic explorer was on the other side). This note was replaced in on the 15th January 1996.
Hawkesbury Council reprinted "Astronomical Memoirs" with some additional material in 1986. John Tebbutt a direct descendant of John Tebbutt the astronomer still lives on the property today. During the 1990s his observatory was renovated and opened as a tourist attraction, by appointment to the public.


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