Isaac W Ward

Important Belfast-born Victorian astronomer

Born in Belfast on 13 September 1834, Isaac Ward lived at 22 Camden Street. Ward came from a noted Belfast family who farmed land where the Malone Golf Course is now located. He was among the foremost astronomical observers of the day, despite the fact that his sole observing instrument was a 10.9cm refractor.
Ward’s chief claim to fame lies in his observation of a supernova in the Andromeda Galaxy M31 in 1885, an object that has since been given the name 'S Andromedae'. The concept of supernovae was not yet current, and there was no appreciation of the true nature of M31 as a galaxy similar to our own. Ward observed the supernova on 19 August of that year near the nucleus of the galaxy, shining at an estimated magnitude 7. He was the first to observe it with the appreciation that it was a real object. It had been seen two days earlier by a Professor Gully at Rouen, France who failed to recognise its significance, attributing it to a defect in a new telescope.
Under the pen-name 'Belfastiensis' Ward contributed to Belfast newspapers on various subjects and under the signature 'Linea' to the English Mechanic and World of Science. He was a member of the short-lived Ulster Astronomical Society but appears not to have held any office in that body. . He was a member of the short-lived but appears not to have held any office in that body.
He died on 11th October 1916 and is interred at Drumbeg Cemetery.
Consult the Linen Hall Library catalogue

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