John Michell

John Michell

John Michell

Birth : (1724-12-25)25 December 1724 Eakring,Nottinghamshire

Death : 21 April 1793(1793-04-21)(aged 68) Thornhill,Yorkshire

Personal Information

Name John Michell
Birth (1724-12-25)25 December 1724 Eakring,Nottinghamshire
Birth Place Eakring,Nottinghamshire
Death (1793-04-21)(aged 68) Thornhill,Yorkshire
Died At Thornhill,Yorkshire
Nationality English
Alma Mater Queens' College,Cambridge
Fields Physics,geology
Famous Research Predicting the existence ofblack holes,seismology, manufacture ofmagnets,mass of the Earth

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Events Occured in Scienctist Life


John Michell (; 25 December 1724 – 21 April 1793) was an English natural philosopher and clergyman who provided pioneering insights into a wide range of scientific fields including astronomy, geology, optics, and gravitation.


Early life, education and professional positions John Michell was born in 1724 in Eakring, in Nottinghamshire, the son of Gilbert Michell, a priest, and Obedience Gerrard.


He obtained his M.A. degree in 1752, and his B.D. degree in 1761.


He was Tutor of the college from 1751 to 1763; Praelector in Arithmetic in 1751; Censor in Theology in 1752; Praelector in Geometry in 1753; Praelector in Greek in 1755 and 1759; Senior Bursar in 1756; Praelector in Hebrew in 1759 and 1762; Censor in Philosophy and Examiner in 1760. "


He was nominated Rector of St Botolph's, Cambridge, on 28 March 1760, and held this living until June 1763."


From 1762 to 1764, he held the Woodwardian Chair of Geology till he was obliged to relinquish it on his marriage.


In 1910, Sir Edmund Whittaker observed that during the century after Isaac Newton's death, "the only natural philosopher of distinction who lived and taught at Cambridge was Michell", although his "researches seem to have attracted little or no attention among his collegiate contemporaries and successors, who silently acquiesced when his discoveries were attributed to others, and allowed his name to perish entirely from Cambridge tradition".


In 1767, he was appointed rector of St. Michael's Church of Thornhill, near Leeds, Yorkshire, England, a post he held for the rest of his life.


He did most of his important scientific work in Thornhill, where he died on 21 April 1793, aged 68.


In 1750, Michell published at Cambridge a work of some eighty pages entitled "A Treatise of Artificial Magnets", in which he presented an easy and expeditious method of producing magnets that are superior to the best natural magnets.


His most important geological essay, written after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, was entitled "Conjectures concerning the Cause and Observations upon the Phaenomena of Earthquakes" (Philosophical Transactions, li. 1760).


A 1788 letter to Henry Cavendish indicated that Michell continued to be interested in geology several decades after his paper on earthquakes.


In 1987, gravity researcher A. H. Cook wrote: The most important advance in experiments on gravitation and other delicate measurements was the introduction of the torsion balance by Michell and its use by Cavendish.


It was Michell who, in a paper for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, read on 27 November 1783, first proposed the idea that there were such things as black holes, which he called "dark stars".


A few years after Michell came up with the concept of black holes, the French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace suggested essentially the same idea in his 1796 book, Exposition du Système du Monde.


He died in quiet obscurity", states the American Physical Society, "and his notion of a 'dark star' was forgotten until his writings re-surfaced in the 1970s."


Herschel recorded having visited and seen Michell's telescope while in the area in 1792; Michell was already frail, and his telescope was in disrepair.


He was first invited to meetings of the Royal Society in 1751 as a guest of Sir George Savile, who would become his patron.


His paper on the cause of earthquakes was read before the Society beginning on 28 February 1760, leading to a recommendation by Savile and another member that Michell be invited to join the Society.


He was elected a member on 12 June 1760.


Michell followed his work in seismology with work in astronomy, and after publishing his findings in 1767 he served on an astronomical committee of the Royal Society.


More recently, Michell has become known for his letter to Cavendish, published in 1784, on the effect of gravity on light.


This paper was rediscovered in the 1970s and is now recognised as anticipating several astronomical ideas that had been considered to be 20th century innovations.


Michell's first wife was Sarah Williamson (1727–1765), daughter of Luke Williamson and Sutton Holmes, "a young lady of considerable fortune", whom he married in 1764 and who unfortunately died only a year later, in 1765.


On 13 February 1773, in Newark, Nottinghamshire, he married Ann Brecknock (1736-1805), daughter of Matthew and Ann Brecknock of Nottinghamshire.


Michell is the subject of the book Weighing the World: The Reverend John Michell of Thornhill (2012) by Russell McCormmach.


Michell, John (27 November 1783), "On the Means of Discovering the Distance, Magnitude, &c. of the Fixed Stars, in Consequence of the Diminution of the Velocity of Their Light, in Case Such a Diminution Should be Found to Take Place in any of Them, and Such Other Data Should be Procured from Observations, as Would be Farther Necessary for That Purpose.