Thomas Wright – Stargazer

You know when you have driven by somewhere and think, “I wonder what that building was?

 This has happened to me on a number of occasions but most recently in a village not too far away called Westerton.
I always thought that this building was an old windmill, used for milling grain into flour, but it turns out I was completely wrong for all these years.

It is in fact an old astronomical observatory that was built for Thomas Wright.

Who was Thomas Wright?

Thomas Wright was born in Byers Green, County Durham in 1711. A mathematician, instrument maker and architect, he would best be remembered for his passion for astronomy.

Thomas Wright (astronomer) 1737

By Mezzotint by T. Frye, after himself ([1]) [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

At the age of 19 he moved to Sunderland, a coastal town now a city, to teach mathematics and navigation to prospective entrants to the maritime industry.

Though the influence of money from wealthy patrons saw him relocate to London to work on a number of projects.

At the age of 39, he published a paper entitled “An original theory or new hypothesis of the Universe” which makes for interesting reading, especially his theory regarding the appearance of the Milky Way being due to a flat layer of stars.

Following his retirement, Wright returned to County Durham and built the observatory you see above to allow him to continue his astronomical investigations.

Dying at the age of 75, Wright left us knowing he was the first person to describe the shape of the Milky Way and speculate the feint nebulae he could see were in fact distant galaxies.

The stone structure of the observatory remains in place today for all who pass it to see. I just wonder how many like me, did not realise it significance?

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