Frontiers & Pioneers in Gloucestershire’s Archives: Display 1 of 20
Translation of Latin Inscription on grave of James Bradley (P217/MI/3)
James Bradley is one of the real unknown pioneers of Gloucestershire. He was born in Sherborne in 1692 and was educated at Westwood's Grammar School in Northleach and then Balliol College, Oxford. Astronomy was his passion and he quickly gained a good reputation, being introduced to the famous astronomer Edmond Halley and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1718. Although he initially took Holy Orders and became the vicar of Bridstow, in 1721 he resigned the church and was appointed to the Savilian chair of astronomy at Oxford. In 1742 he succeeded Halley as the astronomer royal – receiving £250 a year and a grant of £1,000 for instruments (about £30k and £120k today). During his career, he made two important discoveries that were said to be "the most brilliant and useful of the century“; the ‘aberration of light’ (1725-1728) and the ‘nutation of the Earth's axis’ (1728-1748). Bradley also established the Greenwich time line which led to Greenwich Mean Time. He retired in ill health in 1761 and moved to Chalford, where he died the following year, being buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity church, Minchinhampton. The oval brass plate on the tomb was nearly stolen in the early 19th century but the thieves were apprehended whilst trying to remove it and it is now on display inside the church.