R. A. Proctor (183788)

R. A. Proctor Vanity Fair cartoon

Richard Anthony Proctor was the leading popularizer of astronomy of the Victorian era. His influence is still felt today. Proctor’s star atlases were the forerunners of Norton’s Star Atlas, and the spirit of his beginner’s guidebook Half Hours with the Stars lives on in my own book The Monthly Sky Guide.

In 1881 Proctor founded the science magazine Knowledge, which he edited for several years; hence he can be considered a pioneer of popular science writing. Subsequently he moved to the United States, having married an American woman. A daughter by his first marriage, Mary Proctor (1862–1957), also wrote popular works on astronomy.

For obituaries of Proctor see Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 49, p. 164 (1889) and The Observatory, vol. 11, p. 366 (1888). For a splendid review of Proctor’s influence in the USA, see American Studies International, vol. 37, p. 34 (1999 February).

This caricature of him is by Spy (Leslie Ward), the most famous of the Vanity Fair artists – so much so that the whole genre is often referred to as ‘Spy cartoons’. It appeared in Vanity Fair on 1883 March 3.

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