Reference numberVF/03
Alternative reference numberVF03
TitlePortrait of Sir Robert Stawell Ball by Sir Leslie Ward
ArtistWard, Leslie ['Spy']
Vincent Brooks, Day & Son
Date13 April 1905
DescriptionVanity Fair cartoon titled 'Popular Astronomy' featuring Sir Robert Stawell Ball standing in front of a celestial globe. Full length, full face. Number 949 of the 'Men of the Day' series.
InscriptionContentRecto inscription: ‘VANITY FAIR Supplement/ Vincent Brooks, Day & Son. Ltd. Lith/ “popular Astronomy"/ Jehu Junior’
CaptionVanity Fair Supplement
Men of the Day. No. CMXLIX
Sir Robert Ball
Sir Robert Stawell Ball, Lowndean Professor of Geometry and Astronomy at Cambridge, applies a merry eye to the telescope,and smiles benevolently upon the stars. The comincation of with with the higher mathematics and of a warm heart with the unimaginable frigidity of space, is suggestive of Ireland to the intelligent biographer. Such characters are born, not made; and Sir Robert was born in Dublin. English schools and Universities have taught him to tolerate the Sassenach; but they have failed to eradicate that most precious of all possessions, his Celtic sense of humour.
Sir Robert comes of a learned family. His father was a naturalist of reputation, one brother became Director of Science and Art at the Dublin Meuseum, and another, Sir Charles Ball, a distinguished surgeon in the same city.
His mathematics brought him high pri\ws at school and college, and subsequently proxured him a post in Lord Rosses' observatory at Parsonstown, King's County. From that date he has mounted the astronomical ladder two steps at a time. A mathematical Professorship at Dublin was followed by his appointment as Astonomer Royal for Ireland. HIs lecturing tours at home and in America were planned at the Observatory, near Dunsink. It was there that he wrote the majority of those books on astronomy that have given simplicity and popularity to a recondite science. As these virtues of style are apt to be regarded with suspicion and indignation by more pedanitc mathematicians, Sir Robert saved his good name amongst the professors by a magnum opus on the "Theory of Screws," which, though profound, has nothing to do with Mr Chamberlain. in 1892 he left the Irish Observatory to sit in the chair that Cambridge had offered him.
Sir Robert prefers the music of the spheres to Wagner; he has made himself plain on that point, He does not ride to hounds, and yet is a judge of horseflesh. He extends his good temper to a golf ball even in its most evasive moods. Recently, he has deveopled a taste for politics, but ambition has not driven him into cadidature, though he is the Chariman of the Cambridge Conservative Caucus. He is a Commissioner of Irish Lights and Lighthouse. Doubtless, it was to aid him in his labours that the Spectacle-makes made him a liveryman of their body.
A wise, witty, and brilliant Irishman, of wide reading and worldly experience - such is Sir Robert Ball.
Jehu Junior
Physical descriptionColoured lithograph on paper, mounted on card
Dimensions380mm x 263mm
NotesText is accompanying article from "Vanity Fair" (by Jehu Junior)
Access statusOpen
ProvenancePurchased by the Royal Society from Patrick Pollak Antiquarian & Rare Books, Septemer 1999
Related materialColour transparency, Box N101. IM/000222
Related records in the catalogueIM/000222
Fellows associated with this archive
NA7578Ball; Sir; Robert Stawell (1840 - 1913)1840 - 1913
Add to My Items

    Collection highlights

    Browse the records of some of our collections, which cover all branches of science and date from the 12th century onwards. These include the published works of Fellows of the Royal Society, personal papers of eminent scientists, letters and manuscripts sent to the Society or presented at meetings, and administrative records documenting the Society's activities since our foundation in 1660.

    The Royal Society

    The Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of
    the world's most eminent scientists and is the
    oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.
    Registered charity number 207043

    Website design ©CalmView


    + 44 207 451 2500
    (Lines open Mon-Fri, 9:00-17:00. Excludes bank holidays)

    6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG

    Email Us →


    Subscribe to our newsletters to be updated with the
    latest news on innovation, events, articles and reports.

    Subscribe →

    © CalmView