People: John Richard Lucas

Name Lucas, John Richard
Place of work Greenwich
Employment dates
25 Feb 1856 – c.1860

Observatory posts 1856, Feb 25

Computer (Lunar & probably Magnetic Reductions)

Born 1842, Oct

Died ?


Family Links Father, John Lucas (1816–1883) also employed as a computer and responsible for his supervision

Known Addresses 1851
St Johns Street, Oxford (census)


Born and brought up in Oxford, John Richard Lucas was the son of John Lucas, who had been an assistant at the Radcliffe Observatory since 1840. Following the death of his mother at some point between 1848 & 1851, Ann, the unmarried sister of his father may have helped with his upbringing. 

On 3 May 1853, in an Address to the Board of Visitors at Greenwich, the Astronomer Royal, George Airy, floated a proposal to set up a programme to reduce the Lunar Observations made at Greenwich between 1831 and 1851. This was essentially a follow up to a similar programme that had been carried out under Airy and that had resulted in 1848 in the publication of The Reductions of the Lunar Observations made at the Royal Observatory of Greenwich from 1750 to 1830. The Visitors approved the suggestion and money was allocated in the Navy Estimates for the work to begin in the financial year 1854–5. For various reasons, which included finding a suitable person to superintendent the necessary computers, the start of the project was delayed until the beginning of 1856. The post of Superintendent was eventually offered to his Lucas’s father, who joined the Royal Observatory from Oxford in November 1855. When the programme of reductions started in earnest at the beginning of 1856, John Richard Lucas was taken on as one of the computers. Following the completion of the Lunar Reductions, in February 1858, it seems probable that Lucas then assisted his father on the Reductions of the Magnetic Observations 1848–57.

While this work was underway, back in Oxford, the Radcliffe Observer, Manuel Johnson, died in March 1859. After some delay, he was succeeded by Airy’s First Assistant, Robert Main, who took up his post on 19 June 1860. A few weeks later, on 21 July, Adolphus Quirling, the First Assistant at the Radcliffe, went on an extended period of sick leave. During this period, Lucas (Snr) was asked to cover for him. Following the return of Quirling of 1 October, Lucas remained at the Radcliffe, becoming established as Second Assistant in July 1861. What happened to Lucas (Jnr) when his father moved is not currently known.