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John Goodricke

John Goodricke
Born (1764-09-17)17 September 1764
Died 20 April 1786(1786-04-20) (aged 21)
Residence England
Nationality United Kingdom
Fields Astronomy
Known for Studies of variable stars
Notable awards Copley Medal (1783)

John Goodricke FRS (17 September 1764 – 20 April 1786) was an English amateur astronomer. He is best known for his observations of the variable star Algol (Beta Persei) in 1782.


  • Life and work 1
  • Goodricke in Yorkshire 2
  • Honor 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Life and work

John Goodricke, named after his grandfather Sir John Goodricke (see Goodricke baronets of Ribston Hall), was born in Groningen in the Netherlands, but lived most of his life in England. He became deaf in early childhood due to a severe illness.[1] His parents sent him to Thomas Braidwood's Academy, a school for deaf pupils in Edinburgh, and in 1778 to the Warrington Academy.

After leaving Warrington, Goodricke returned to live with his parents in York. There, he became friends with his neighbour Edward Pigott, whose father Nathaniel Pigott had built a sophisticated private observatory. Edward was already interested in variable stars, and he gave Goodricke a list of those that he thought were worthy of observation.

Goodricke is credited with discovering the periodic variation of δ Cephei, the prototypical example of the Cepheid variable stars.

Although several stars were already known to vary in apparent magnitude, Goodricke was the first to propose a mechanism to account for this. He suggested that Algol is what is now known as an eclipsing binary. He presented his findings to the Royal Society in May 1783, and for this work, the Society awarded him the Copley Medal for that year. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on 16 April 1786. He never learned of this honour however, as he died four days later from pneumonia.[2] He never married.

Goodricke in Yorkshire

Marker for John Goodricke in York, England

Goodricke was buried at Hunsingore Church in Yorkshire, along with many of his relatives.[3]

Today there is a marker in York near the site of John Goodricke's observatory.

Between October 2005 and March 2006 Sean Ellingham and James Valner from the University of York undertook a project to find the position of Goodricke's observatory using the data he recorded. A 1949 study by Sidney Melmore[4] had shown that Goodricke worked from the Treasurer's House (now owned by the National Trust) very near York Minster. By re-creating Goodricke's observations, the two York students were able to conclude that he had observed from the eastern-most window of the second floor, looking south towards the Minster.

He is buried with his grandparents, parents, brother, and nephew in the churchyard at Hunsingore, North Yorkshire. At present, the only stone marking their burial places says "The Goodricke Vault."

Goodricke College at the University of York is named after Goodricke. There is also a modern sculpture named Algol in the grounds.


Asteroid 3116 Goodricke is named for John Goodricke.

The University of York has a Goodricke College named after John Goodricke.

In 2012 a non-profit organization named after John Goodricke was established in Armenia by a group of amateur astronomers.


  1. ^ BBC News Magazine (18 December 2012). "Disability history month: John Goodricke the deaf astronomer". BBC. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  2. ^ John Goodricke: The Discovery of the Occultating Variable Stars
  3. ^ Goodricke, C. A. (1912). "Letter accompanying the gift to the Society of a portrait of John Goodricke".  
  4. ^ Melmore, Sydney (1949). "The Site of John Goodricke's Observatory". The Observatory 65: 95–99.  

Further reading

  • Gilman, Carolyn (1978). "John Goodricke and His Variable Stars". Sky and Telescope 56 (11): 400–403.  
  • Goodricke, John (1784). "On the Periods of the Changes of Light in the Star Algol. In a Letter from John Goodricke, Esq. to the Rev. Anthony Shepherd, D.D.F.R.S. Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 74 (0): 287–292.  
  • Goodricke, John; Englefield, H. C. (1785). "Observations of a New Variable Star. By John Goodricke, Esq.; Communicated by Sir H. C. Englefield, Bart. F. R. S. and A. S.". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 75 (0): 153–164.  
  • Goodricke, John (1786). "A Series of Observations on, and a Discovery of, the Period of the Variation of the Light of the Star Marked δ by Bayer, Near the Head of Cepheus. In a Letter from John Goodricke, Esq. to Nevil Maskelyne, D.D.F.R.S. and Astronomer Royal". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Printed by T.N. for J. Martyn and J. Allestyry, Printers to the Royal Society) 76 (0): 48–61.  

External links

  • "Goodricke's life and astronomical work". - Features animations of different types of variable stars.
  • Goodricke, Michael. "John Goodricke". Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  • John Goodricke at Find a Grave
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