People: Thomas Hudson

Name Hudson, Thomas Charlton
Place of work Greenwich
Employment dates
11/12 Feb 1892 – 10 July 1893

Observatory Posts 1892, Feb

Second Class Assistant
Subsequent posts 1893, Jul Assistant, Nautical Almanac Office (The London Gazette (pdf))
  1923 Retired on medical grounds (see below)
Born 1868, Jun 10 (Wimbledon)
Died 1937, May 19 (Saffron Walden)
Known Addresses 1892, Jun
88 King George Street
  1892, Dec

3 Montpelier Row, Blackheath

Hudson was the last of what turned out to be an elite group of individuals to be appointed as a Second Class Assistant, a grade that was created in 1871 and abolished in 1896. Following changes to the appointment process in 1872 all the posts at this level were filled by competitive examinations organised by the Civil Service. In total, just eight individuals were appointed under this system. All were well educated and generally in their early 20s when they arrived at the Observatory (Hudson like Bryant had a maths degree from Cambridge: Hudson was 17th Wrangler and Bryant 21st  – ie the 17th and 21st best students in their year). They were:

1873      Arthur Matthew Weld Downing
1873      Edward Walter Maunder
1875      William Grasett Thackeray
1881      Thomas Lewis
1881      Henry Park Hollis
1891      Andrew Claude de la Cherois Crommelin
1892      Walter William Bryant
1892      Thomas Charlton Hudson

Of the eight, six remained at the Observatory for their entire working life. Hudson wasn’t one of them. He and Bryant were appointed as a Second Class Assistants following the promotion of Lewis and Thackeray from Second Class to First Class Assistants. Bryant started on 8 February 1892 and Hudson a few days later (Christie states 11 Feb in the introduction to the Greenwich Observations and 12 Feb in his report to the Board of Visitors). Hudson was given charge of the zenith distance reductions. He resigned his post on 10 July 1893 before he had completed his probationary period in order to take up the post of Assistant at the Nautical Almanac Office. The circumstances surrounding this move have not yet been researched

Hudson is recorded as being both a member of the British Astronomical Association and a fellow of the Royal Astronomcial Society (he and Bryant were both proposed as fellows by Christie in June 1892 and elected that December). Hudson was elected for a second time in 1898 (having been proposed by his boss the Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac Office, Arthur Downing, in December 1897), implying that he had either previously resigned or had not paid his subscription.

Donald Sadler, who joined the Nautical Almanac Office in 1930, described Hudson as ‘a brilliant but mentally unstable Assistant, who was responsible for many good (and some not so good) computing methods’ (RGO16/1). He was suspended from duty in November 1917 on the grounds that ‘his attendance to his Official duties and his demeanour towards his superior Officers was most improper’. He was later reinstated. In February 1923, he was medically certified ‘as being permanently incapable of discharging the duties of his situation, owing to mental instability. He was therefore relieved of his duties and recommended to the Treasury for the award of a superannuation allowance (RGO16/1). He was subsequently employed on a casual basis by the Nautical Almanac Office, his salary being drawn from the ‘lump sum’ (a pot of money from which all of the staff not on the establishment were paid).



By F.R. From Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 98, pp.251–2