People: Luke Leigh

Name Leigh, Luke
Place of work Bakewell, Derbyshire
Employment dates
From 1695–c.1705? (on an ad hoc basis)

Posts Calculator (for Flamsteed)

Born 1657/8, Feb 12
Buried 1706/7, Feb 12

In a letter to Newton, dated 2 March 1694/5, Flamsteed informs him that he has had the help of ‘a Couple of very Ingenuous men’ who were living at a great distance from the Observatory. The two individuals concerned were William Bossley, an apothecary, and Luke Leigh, both of whom lived in Bakewell in Flamsteed’s home county of Derbyshire. Their work was of mutual interest and involved tables of the planetary motions. Said by Flamsteed to be a poor Kinsman of Halley’s, Leigh was subsequently taken on by Flamsteed on what appears to have been a formal basis and is often referred to by him as his ‘country calculator’.

In order to reduce the probability of errors occurring during the reductions of his observations, Flamsteed had the data reduced independently by two different individuals. By comparing Leigh’s computations with those of his then servant James Hodgson, he was more easily able to identify errors and correct them.

Leigh worked from home and had his salary paid by Flamsteed from his own pocket. How much he was paid is unclear, as is how much of his time he devoted to working for Flamsteed. However, in a letter dated 6 March 1704/5, Flamsteed informed Sharp that he would have an allowance from the Referees who were overseeing the production of his Historia of £40 per year for each of two calculators.

Both Leigh and Flamsteed showed concern for each others wellbeing. Leigh for example was able to assist Flamsteed in 1698 with the lead mining interests in Derbyshire that he had inherited from his father. This care was reciprocated by Flamsteed who occasionally sent Leigh money to support him when illness prevented him from working during the last two to three years of his life.


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)