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Family star recognised with studentship

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BSc (Hons) Astrophysics graduate Tom Davison

Three times great grandson creates special fund in honour of Moses Holden

A relative of a founder of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is honouring his distant grandfather with the creation of a special studentship for astronomers.

Patrick Holden has created and financed the Moses Holden Studentship Fund to honour the memory of his three times great grandfather.

Moses, who lived from 1777 to 1864, was a famous astronomer. He gave public lectures in astronomy and optics filling theatres in Preston, across the North of England and the Midlands throughout the 19th Century. He was also heavily involved in the creation of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge, now the University, back in 1828.

Patrick said: “As a family we knew of course of Moses’ fame as an astronomer, for example corresponding with the then Astronomer Royal as ‘My Dear Friend’. However, we did not know of his involvement with the Institute, now the University, until we learnt of it from the publication of Steve Halliwell’s splendid biography of Moses."

The University has been good enough to honour Moses by naming their new telescope after him. We felt we should help the University in some way.

“The University has been good enough to honour Moses by naming their new telescope after him. We felt we should help the University in some way. We decided to create the bursary for an astrophysics PhD and also, as and when a suitable site can be found for it, to pass on an oil painting of Moses dating back from about 1827, painted about the same time as he helped found the Institute. Meanwhile we wish Tom Davison every success.”

The first recipient is BSc (Hons) Astrophysics graduate Tom Davison. He graduated with a First in summer and will now spend the next three-and-a-half years using this studentship to continue his studies to doctorate level.

The 21-year-old, from Somerset, said: “It’s fantastic and such a great honour to receive this studentship, especially because it’s named after such an important person.

“I will be using this studentship to research dwarf galaxies, I will be observing and trying to make sense of some dwarf galaxies and I will be getting new data.”

Tom’s research will use data from the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, which can see distant galaxies in the Universe.

He will also be teaching the undergraduate students at UCLan’s Alston Observatory using the Moses Holden telescope, the £200,000 highly specialised 0.7m diameter mirror Altitude-Azimuth reflecting telescope which the University dedicated in Moses’ name last year.

This studentship is a fabulous opportunity for students to continue their studies into a subject area which Moses was so passionate about.

Professor Derek Ward-Thompson, Director of UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, added: “We are delighted Patrick has decided to honour Moses in this special way. This studentship is a fabulous opportunity for students to continue their studies into a subject area which Moses was so passionate about.

“For Moses’ lectures he had constructed a large orrery, with which he demonstrated the motions of the Earth, the Moon and the planets in the solar system. He projected an image of the orrery on to a large screen and filled theatres with enthusiastic members of the public, who paid to hear about the latest advances in astronomy. We will also be delighted to receive the oil portrait of founder Moses in time for our bicentenary in 2028.”

Rachel Atkinson | 25 October 2017