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Biographical entry Abbott, Francis (1799 - 1883)

12 August 1799
Derby, England
18 February 1883
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Watch maker, Astronomer and Meteorologist


Francis Abbott, a watchmaker, was transported to Tasmania in 1845 for 'obtaining two watches under false pretences'. He served one year with the Oyster Cove gangs and three years as an assigned servant. Abbott was freed three years early in 1849 and set up his own business in Hobart. He was very successful and many of his public clocks, including one at Government House, were erected. Francis Abbott also had a keen interest in meteorology and astronomy. His reputation in this field soon overshadowed his watch and clock making abilities. He began making observations at the Rossbank Observatory soon after his arrival in Tasmania. After its closure in 1854 he continued his work in his private observatory. Self-taught, Abbott went on to pioneer observations of the southern hemisphere and contributed numerous articles to astronomy and meteorological journals. He also wrote several books. His recordings became the standard reference for the local climate and were published in world charts. He was also the first astronomer to record and announce changes on the variable star Argus (Carinae). Many of his large collection of books (philosophy and science) and instruments are kept by museums, observatories and universities around Australia.



25 October 1821
Life event - Married Mary Woolley at St Werburgh's Church in Derby, UK
Career position - Honorary member of the Antiquarian and Chronological Society of London
Career position - A Treatise on the Management of Public Clocks published in London
Life event - Sentenced to seven years transportation by the Central Criminal Court in England
June 1845
Arrived in Hobart Town, Tasmania
27 March 1849
Life event - Received a ticket-of-leave and started a watch and clockmaker business in Murray St, Hobart
Life event - Wife and family granted free passage to join him
1854 - 1880
Career position - Began recording meteorological observations which were published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania
Career position - Member of the Royal Society of Tasmania
Career position - Clock at Government House erected
Career position - Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, London
Career position - Life member and councillor of the Royal Society of Tasmania
Career position - Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society
Career position - Modern Astronomy published in Hobart
Career position - Résumé on Modern Astronomy published in Hobart
Career position - Siderereal Systems of the Modern Astronomy, Multiple Suns and Far-off Worlds published in Tas

Related Corporate Bodies

Archival resources

National Herbarium, Melbourne

  • Francis Abbott - Records, 1879 - 1881, MSS M55; National Herbarium, Melbourne. Details

Private hands (Abbott, M.)

  • Francis Abbott - Records, 1860 - 1872; Private hands (Abbott, M.). Details

Royal Society of Tasmania

  • Francis Abbott - Records, 1856 - 1874, RSA/B.10, RSA/A.17(A); Royal Society of Tasmania. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions

Book Sections

Journal Articles

  • Abbott, Francis, 'Spectrum analysis', Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania (1863), 2-9. Details
  • Abbott, Francis, 'Spectrum analysis and its application to science.', Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania for 1868 (1869), 41-48. Details
  • Maiden, J.H., 'Records of Tasmanian Botanists', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania (1909), 9-29. Details
  • Orchiston, Wayne, 'The Contribution of Francis Abbott to Tasmanian and Australian Astronomy', Vistas in Astronomy, 35 (1992), 315-344. Details


Resource Sections

See also

McCarthy, G.J.