Transit of Venus

Amongst the many historic Liverpool “firsts” listed on the towering wall in the city’s Central Library are the words “Transit of Venus”.  I wasn’t entirely sure what lay behind these three words but discovered that they point to the story of a young man from early 17th century Toxteth who shook the astronomy theory of his time with his accurate prediction of when the planet Venus would move across the Sun.  His observations led to him being known as the founder of modern astronomy on a global scale. The young man’s name was Jeremiah Horrocks and nearly 400 years since his prediction, a crowd funding campaign has begun to erect a life-size statue in Liverpool that will celebrate his achievements.

The impetus for the statue has come from a Liverpool sculptor and artist, Philip Garrett, whose art practice focuses Jeremiah Horrocks Maquette copyon neglected, important figures from the city’s history.  No known image of Horrocks exists but Garrett has already made a maquette that represents him as a young man, dressed in the clothes of the time and holding a cross staff, the instrument he used to help make his calculations.  Garrett says Horrocks is worth celebrating now because he would be inspirational for young people of today: “He was only 22 when he died, yet in his brief life he changed the course of Science.  A statue in the public domain would inspire future generations and be a reminder that someone from a humble background achieved greatness and influenced the rest of the world”.

Astronomical Historian, Dr. Allan Chapman, of Oxford’s Wadham College, is also enthusiastic in his support of the initiative: “Jeremiah Horrocks was one of the founders of British science, a true pioneer of astronomy as an accurate, instrument-based science.  His observation of the 1639 Transit of Venus, with his Salford astronomer friend, William Crabtree, would serve as a model for precise telescopic observation, and interpretation. All his brilliant, original work was being done between the ages of 15 and 22 – ages which today, would be spent gaining GCSE’s and doing an undergraduate degree. Horrocks was the Einstein of the early 17th century”.

It is well documented that sculpture has the power to transform the site where it is located and can act as a catalyst for social interaction, that people connect better to a place when it contains a work of art.  A statue of Jeremiah Horrocks would do this and also inspire those who see it to believe that great things are possible whatever one’s background.

The launch of the fund raising campaign is to be held in the Hornby Room of the city’s Central Library on 30 November 2019 at 14.45.  Guest speakers include Dr. Chapman and the Author & Film Director, Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Updates and more information can be found on the Campaign’s Facebook Page