1892 The Voyeur’s Guide to Venus

The Voyeurs Guide to Venus

Richard Anthony Proctor [1837-1888] was an English astronomer and author who left his “largest and most ambitious work” Old and New Astronomy unfinished when he died.

In 1881 he founded Knowledge, a popular weekly magazine of science (converted into a monthly in 1885), which had a considerable circulation.

In it he wrote on a great variety of subjects, including chess and whist.

He was also the author of the articles on astronomy in the American Cyclopaedia and the ninth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, and was well known as a popular lecturer on astronomy in England, America and Australia.

Elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1866, he became honorary secretary in 1872, and contributed eighty-three separate papers to its Monthly Notices. Of these the more noteworthy dealt with the distribution of stars, star clusters and nebulae, and the construction of the sidereal universe.

He was an expert in all that related to map-drawing, and published two star-atlases.

A chart on an isographic projection, exhibiting all the stars contained in the Bonner Durchmusterung, was designed to show the laws according to which the stars down to the 9–10th magnitude are distributed over the northern heavens.

His Theoretical Considerations respecting the Corona (Monthly Notices, xxxi. 184, 254) also deserve mention, as well as his discussions of the rotation of Mars, by which be deduced its period with a probable error of 0.005.

He also vigorously criticised the official arrangements for observing the transits of Venus of 1874 and 1882.

His largest and most ambitious work, Old and New Astronomy, left unfinished at his death, was completed by Arthur Cowper Ranyard and published in 1892.


Richard Proctor

Arthur Cowper Ranyard [1845-1894] completed the unfinished chapters of Old and New Astronomy and all 815 pages were published in one beautifully bound tome in 1892.

The publication of the ‘Old and New Astronomy’ was announced in 1887, and the First Part was published in March 1888.

At the date of Mr. Proctor’s death, in September 1888, Part VI had been issued and Part VII was in type.

The chapters on the Planets were in manuscript, and appeared to be nearly ready for publication; but, as they had been written at Mr. Proctor’s home in Florida, where he was at a distance from libraries, more work was required to complete them than I expected when I undertook to finish the volume.

The manuscript, as far as it went, ended with the description of the discovery of Neptune, the outermost member of the solar system.

Unfortunately, Mr. Proctor had written nothing with regard to the Universe of Stars, the
Distribution of Nebulae, and the Construction of the Milky Way, though it was known by his Widow and friends that he intended to make these sections a special feature of the book.

It was in this department of Astronomy that he had done his most original and lasting work, work by which his name will probably be long remembered.

I have, therefore, endeavoured, in the Stellar section of the ‘Old and New Astronomy,’ to give as complete a review as I could of the various theories which have been advocated with regard to the Milky Way and the distribution of Stars and Nebula.

Preface by A. Cowper Ranyard.
Old and New Astronomy – Richard Anthony Proctor & Arthur Cowper Ranyard – 1892,

Arthur Cowper Ranyard (21 June 1845 – 14 December 1894) was an English astrophysicist.

In 1888 his friend Richard Anthony Proctor died, leaving his major work, Old and New Astronomy, incomplete, and Ranyard undertook to finish it for the benefit of the author’s family.


Old and New Astronomy provides a wonderful insight into astronomy around 1890 and this is [briefly] illustrated by Proctor’s predictions for the Transits of Venus in the 21st century.

In 1892 the orbital period of Venus was stated to be 224.70 days.


In 2015 the accuracy of the quoted orbital period has improved by only one thousandth of a day.

Wikipedia - Venus


The predicted trajectory of Venus across the face of the Sun was almost perfect.

Trajectory Comparison

In 1892 the predicted durations for the 2004 and 2012 Transits of Venus were 06:01:57 and 06:19:55 respectively.

Transits of Venus - Duration

The 2002 NASA predicted durations for the 2004 and 2012 Transits of Venus were 06:12:00 and 06:40:00 respectively.

Therefore, Richard Proctor’s predictions were short by [about] 10 [2004] and 20 [2012] minutes.

NASA Schedule

However, the 1892 predictions for first contact were only [about] 10 minutes early for 2004 and only [about] 13 minutes late for 2012.

Transits of Venus - Schedule

2004 Transit of Venus - Map

Personally, I am astounded by the accuracy of these predictions published 1892.

Depending on the position of the observer, the exact times varied by up to ±7 minutes.


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2 Responses to 1892 The Voyeur’s Guide to Venus

  1. Carol says:

    very good Tim. I enjoyed that

  2. craigm350 says:

    That is quite remarkable. I only wish is was possible to predict when celestial events are observable in the southern half of England. Solar/Lunar eclipses, Venus transit, aurora in the past few years have all been obscured by clouds here – almost as if the weather changes on purpose! I did get to see the 99 eclipse (on Brighton fishing pier – the cool wind advanced ahead of the dark shadow over the waters) and Hale-Bop but for the past few years nothing but clouds 😦

    As an aside based on the timing of transit in 1882 with solar cycle 12 I predicted sc24 max as Dec 13 – not far off. Interestingly the March following transit were notably cold on both occasions. I predicted the Mar 2013 cold in the Jan (somewhere over at the Talkshop) based on that alone.

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