People: Thomas Smith

Name Smith, Thomas
Place of work Greenwich
Employment dates
April 1676 – June 1684

Posts Servant and Assistant to Flamsteed

In a letter to Abraham Sharp dated 11 September 1705, Smith is described as being short sighted and prone to mistake the star he was supposed to be observing for another one close by (click here to read the relevant section of the letter). He was valued by both Flamsteed and others whose path he crossed such as William Molyneux.

The circumstances of his appointment were described by Flamsteed in a letter to Sherburne dated 12 July 1682:

‘The Sextant is an instrument that cannot be manag’d with less than 3 people, of which the 2 observers ought to be skillfull in the businesse  for the 3d and indifferent person of a Stronge able Body may serve, a Skilful Assistant was promised me, besides our Labourer to move it, but I could never obtein one, which put me to more than 20li [£20] per Annum Expence in a Servant for that purpose.’

That Smith was appointed in April 1676 and was Flamsteed’s first servant we know from RGO1/15/165. He left the Observatory for a better paid job at the Tower (of London) where he was employed in the Ordnance Office as 2nd clerk to the Clerk of Deliveries at the Tower (1684-96) and then as store keeper at Chatham (1697-1700). He was replaced as Flamsteed’s assistant by Abraham Sharp.

Despite having left Flamsteed’s employ, Smith returned to the Observatory on at least two occasions in 1685 and 1688 to lend a hand. (Flamsteed Correspondence, Vol 2 p.253 & 382)


Further reading

An account of the Revd. John Flamsteed, Francis Bailey, (London, 1835)

 The correspondence of John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal, ed. E. G. Forbes and others, 3 vols. (1995–2001)