Born: 5 December 1903, Ossett, near Leeds in Yorkshire, U.K.
Died: February 1988, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Discovered / co-discovered three comets.
Discovered / co-discovered 72 asteroids.
Director Yale Observatory.
Cyril Jackson was born on 5th December 1903 in Leeds, England. His family moved to South Africa in 1911, where he was educated at Forest High School, Johannesburg, becoming their first Dux. In 1922 he enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Whilst a student he worked at the Union Observatory in Johannesburg from 1922 onwards, with Union astronomers Innes and van den Bos. Their duties involved finding minor planets and comets, and mapping the whole southern sky (Union Observatory Charts).
In 1928 Jackson was appointed at the Union Observatory.
In April 1929 he discovered his first minor planet (which he called Catriona) and this was followed by a remarkable productive career during which he discovered 72 new minor planets. Most of them were given typically South African names like Letaba, Messina, and Saldanha etcetera. Details of the asteroids he discovered are listed below as Addendum A
Jackson found an unidentified object, which turned out to be the comet 1935.2. In total he discovered three comets, two of which can still be observed today. The second comet, a 12th magnitude object in Aquarius on 20 September 1936 on a plate exposed five days earlier, using the Franklin-Adams Star Camera. Grigory Neujmin in Russia independently found the comet, and the comet is today known as 58P Jackson-Neujmin. Jackson’s third comet was found by accident on a plate exposed on 26 August 1948, while testing a 50cm focal-length camera for its ability to detect fast-moving minor planets. Joseph Ashbrook found the comet 12 hours earlier on a visit to Lowell Observatory. This comet too is observable today as comet 47P Ashbrook-Jackson. Details of the comets he discovered are listed below as Addendum B.
Jackson served as the President of the South African Astronomy Association from 1935 to 1936.
When war broke (1939 -1945) out Jackson joined the Union Defence Force in North Africa and Italy, and at Roberts Heights in Pretoria, leaving the service with the rank of Captain in the intelligence forces.
After the war Jackson joined the Yale Observatory as the director of the Yale-Columbia Southern Station (1945 to 1952) in association with David Thackeray in Johannesburg (?).
The Yale Observatory did groundbreaking work in measuring the parallax and proper motions of stars in the Southern Hemisphere. They actually completed their program. Their reason for existence fulfilled and with the encroachment of light pollution, it was decided to close the Observatory down (1951) and move the 26-inch Yale Telescope. The first choice for a new site was Pietersburg, but the municipality declined to service the site. At the invitation of the Astronomer Royal for England, R v d Riet Woolley (later director of S.A.A.O.), the 26-inch telescope was moved to Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra, Australia. Jackson oversaw the dismantling of the 26-inch telescope (1951 – 1956). As he did not get on with van der Riet, Jackson (quit) until Bart Bok took over as director. Note: The 26-inch telescope remained at Mt. Stromlo until 2003, when a bush fire destroyed the observatory and the telescope.
He rejoined Mount Stromlo from 1957 to1963.
The Yale – Columbia Universities re-opened its Southern Observatory at El Leoncito in Argentina in1963. Jackson was appointed director until his retirement in 1966.
Before retirement, during the 1950’s, he bought the farm Hilltop in the Haenertsburg district, in what is now known as Northern Province. He built himself a small observatory on top of a hill and in 1966 retired to his private observatory. David Thakeray frequently assisted him. (Thackeray was his old colleague from Yale Observatory and at this time Director of Radcliffe Observatory in Pretoria). The instruments he acquired from a German observatory in South West Africa (now Namibia), whose staff had been interned during the ’39 to 45 war. [Communication with his son Paul Jackson via Magda Streicher 4/2005] Hilltop Observatory has recently been “re-discovered” and more information is available under Museums.
Jackson married Maria Aletta Lessing and had three children, Paul (Prof. of physics), Jonathan (surveyor) and Virginia (librarian).
On a more personal level, his family nickname for him was “Squib” (personal communication with his grand daughter Sue Tonin – Cdc), “he walked the few kilometres to Haenertsburg to buy the paper. Also did he occasionally work at the Wood Mill. He was known as a loner, dedicated his time to astronomy”. [Communication with his son Paul Jackson via Magda Streicher 4/2005]
Jackson sold the property on which the telescope house was built in the 70’s and moved the instruments to a small building behind his house on Hilltop farm, which was sold when he died.
Cyril Jackson died in Pietermaritzburg in 1988 and his ashes came to rest in the Pietermaritzburg memorial garden. His wife Aletta died only three months afterwards.
1922 – 1939: Worked at the Union Observatory, initially whilst he was still a student.
1939 – 1945: Astronomical career interrupted by World War Two.
1945 – 1951: Director of Yale-Columbia Southern Station at Johannesburg, South Africa.
1951 – 1963: Worked at Mt. Stromlo Observatory in Australia, with a short period that he “quit” due to a dispute, but he returned.
1963 – 1966: Director of Yale-Columbia Southern Station at El Leoncito, Argentina.
1903: December 5th. Born at Ossett, near Leeds in Yorkshire, England.
1911: Parents move to South Africa.
Schooling in Johannesburg; Forest High School. Dux student.
1922: Studied at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Married Maria Aletta Lessing. They had two sons and a daughter.
1966: Retire to the farm “Hilltop” in the Haenertsburg district.
1988: Died in Pietermaritzburg , South Africa.
- Yale 26-inch telescope
- Telescope at Hilltop: The instruments he acquired from a German observatory in South West Africa (now Namibia), whose staff had been interned during the ’39 to 45 war. In the 1970’s Jackson stopped observing and the observatory grounds were sold. The telescope was then stored behind his farmhouse. The instruments were then donated to an unknown amateur astronomer in Pretoria. [Communication with his son Paul Jackson via Magda Streicher 4/2005]
- Oral Sources: Streicher, M.; Personal verbal communication with various persons.
- Obituary, MNASSA, Vol. 48, Nos. 7 & 8, August 1989.
- Moore, P. & Collins, P.; Astronomy in Southern Africa. (General Source)
- Smits, P.; A Brief History of Astronomy in Southern Africa.(Unpublished)
My gratitude to Magda Streicher who did the research and presented a paper at the 2004 A.S.S.A. Symposium held in Johannesburg.
Addendum A: Asteroids discovered by Cyril Jackson.
Note: Some of the names may not be politically correct and some of the spelling may seem outdated. The names are given here as Jackson registered them at the time.
- (2193) Jackson – 1926 May 18 by H E Wood
In honour of Cyril V. Jackson (1903-1988) whose 72 minor planet discoveries constitute a record for the southern hemisphere.
- (1116) Catriona – 1929 April 5 by C Jackson
Named probably after the novel (1893) by the Scottish poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson.
- (1186) Turnera – 1929 August 1 by C Jackson
In honour of the British astronomer Herbert Hall Turner (1861-1930), director of the Oxford University Observatory.
- (1268) Libya – 1930 April 29 by C Jackson
- (1595) Tanga – 1930 June 19 by C Jackson and H E Wood
A Port on the eastern seaboard of Tanzania.
- (1193) Africa – 1931 April 24 by C Jackson
Named after the continent of Africa
- (1197) Rhodesia – 1931 June 9 by C Jackson
Named after the country now known as Zimbabwe.
- (1194) Aletta – 1931 May 13 by C Jackson
Named in honour of the wife of the discoverer.
- (1196) Sheba – 1931 May 21 by C Jackson
Named for the biblical queen of Sheba, who visited Solomon.
- (1195) Orangia – 1931 May 21 by C Jackson
Named for the province of Orange Free State.
- (1242) Zambesia – 1932 April 28 by C Jackson
The name applies to the former British Territories in the Zambezi Basin.
- (1246) Chaka – 1932 July 23 by C Jackson
Named for Chaka (or Tchaka) king of the Zulu tribe and founder of the Zulu empire in 1812.
- (1243) Pamela – 1932 May 7 by C Jackson
- (1244) Deira – 1932 May 25 by C Jackson
Named after the ancient name of the birthplace of the discoverer. Jackson was born in the town of Ossett, Yorkshire.
- (1245) Calvinia – 1932 May 26 by C Jackson.
Named for the town in the Cape Province.
- (1248) Jugurtha – 1932 September 1 by C Jackson
Named after the Numidian king (160-104 BC) and enemy of Rome. Jugurtha was throttled to death in Rome.
- (1264) Letaba – 1933 April 21 by C Jackson
Named for the river in the Transvaal.
- (1282) Utopia – 1933 August 17 by C Jackson
Named for the imaginary country, a place of ideal perfection.
- (1279) Uganda – 1933 June 15 by C Jackson
Named for the country.
- (1278) Kenya – 1933 June 15 by C Jackson
Named for the country.
- (1367) Nongoma – 1934 July 3 by C Jackson
Named for the capital city of the Kwa-Zulu homeland.
- (1325) Inanda – 1934 July 14 by C Jackson
This is a name of a village community inhabited by the Zulus.
- (1326) Losaka – 1934 July 14 by C Jackson.
Named for the capital of Zambia, Lusaka.
- (2066) Palala – 1934 June 4 by C Jackson.
Named for a river, a tributary of the Limpopo in the northwestern Transvaal.
- (1349) Bechuana – 1934 June 13 by C Jackson
Named for the region that became the state of Botswana.
- (1324) Knysna – 1934 June 15 by C Jackson
Name for the town.
- (1319) Disa – 1934 March 19 by C Jackson.
Named for the large genus of African terrestrial Orchids.
- (1318) Nerina – 1934 March 24 by C Jackson.
Named after a genus of South African bulbous herbs.
- (1321) Majuba – 1934 May 7 by C Jackson
Named for the mountain in northwest Natal.
- (1320) Impala -1934 May 13 by C Jackson
Named after the antelope.
- (1323) Tugela – 1934 May 19 by C Jackson
Named after the river in Natal.
- (1327) Namaqua – 1934 September 7 by Jackson
Named after the coastal region.
- (1948) Kampala – 1935 April 3 by C Jackson
Named for the capital of Uganda.
- (1354) Botha – 1935 April 3 by C Jackson
Named for Louis Botha (1862-1919) first prime minister of the Union of South Africa.
- (1368) Numidia – 1935 April 30 by C Jackson
Named for the ancient country in North Africa , east of Mauritania, in modern Algeria.
- (1355) Magoeba – 1935 April 30 by C Jackson
The name of a chief of the Northern Transvaal.
- (1634) Ndola – 1935 August 19 by C Jackson
Named for the mining town in Zambia
- (1474) Beira – 1935 August 20 by C Jackson
Name of the port in Mozambique.
- (1357) Khama – 1935 July 2 by C Jackson
Name of the late chief of the Bechuana tribe and a distinguished leader.
- (1358) Gaika – 1935 July 21 by C Jackson
Name of a chief of the Transkei.
- (1359) Prieska – 1935 July 22 by C Jackson
Name of a town in the Cape Province.
- (1360) Tarka – 1935 July 22 by C Jackson
Name of a chief whose name is given to Tarkastad.
- (1641) Tana – 1935 July 25 by C Jackson
Named for a river in Kenya
- (2865) Laurel – 1935 July 31 by C Jackson
Named for Stan Laurel (1890-1965), American comedian (born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverson, England).
- (1362) Griqua – 1935 July 31 by C Jackson
Named for the tribe of people from Griqualand.
- (1784) Benguella – 1935 June 30 by C. Jackson
Named for the chief port of Angola.
- (1356) Nyanza – 1935 May 3 by C. Jackson
Named for a region in southwestern Kenya with the capital Kisumu.
- (1639) Ruanda – 1935 May 3 by C. Jackson
Named for the state of Ruanda-Urundi.
- (1712) Angola – 1935 May 28 by C. Jackson
Named for the state on the southwestern coast of Africa.
- (1396) Outeniqua – 1936 August 9 by C. Jackson
Name of a range of mountains in southwestern Cape Province and also home of a now extinct race of Hottentots.
- (1397) Umtata – 1936 August 9 by C. Jackson
Name of the capital town of the native province of the Transkei and seat of the native administration.
- (1816) Liberia – 1936 January 29 by C. Jackson
Named for the state on the western coast of Africa.
- (1949) Messina – 1936 July 8 by C. Jackson
Named for a copper-mining town on the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
- (7102) Unnamed – 1936 July 12 by C Jackson
- (1394) Algoa – 1936 June 12 by C. Jackson
Name of a South African Bay, which has historical associations.
- (1490) Limpopo – 1936 June 14 by C. Jackson
Name of the large river which flows round the northern edge of the Transvaal and through Mozambique.
- (1393) Sofala – 1936 May 25 by C. Jackson
Name of the largest province of the former Portuguese African Territory of Mozambique.
- (1432) Ethiopia – 1937 August 1 by C. Jackson
Ancient name of Abyssinia; still called the empire of Ethiopia.
- (1456) Saldanha – 1937 July 2 by C. Jackson
Named for the newly discovered harbour on the southwest tip of South Africa.
- (1429) Pemba – 1937 July 2 by C. Jackson
A large island off the East Coast of Africa, which was under the rule of the Sultan of Zanzibar.
- (1428) Mombasa – 1937 July 5 by C. Jackson
Name of the chief port in Kenya, East Africa, which has also ancient historical associations.
- (1430) Somalia – 1937 July 5 by C. Jackson
Named for the state in the northeast of Africa.
- (5452) Unnamed â€“ 1937 July 5 by C. Jackson
- (1431) Luanda – 1937 July 29 by C. Jackson
Named for the capital city of Angola.
- (1427) Ruvuma – 1937 May 16 by C. Jackson
Name of the most important river in Tanzania.
- (3768) 1937 RB – 1937 Sept 5 by C. Jackson
- (1468) Zomba – 1938 July 23 by C. Jackson
Name of an important town in Nyassala
- (1467) Mashona – 1938 July 30 by C. Jackson
Name of a large race of native people who inhabit Zimbabwe.
- (2825) Crosby – 1938 Sept 19 by C. Jackson
Named for Harry Lillis Bing Crosby (1903-1977), American singer and film actor.
- (1505) Koranna – 1939 April 21 by C. Jackson
Name of a tribe of wandering Bushmen who inhabit the southern part of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa.
- (1676) Kariba – 1939 June 15 by C. Jackson
Named for a large man-made lake between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
- (1817) Katanga – 1939 June 20 by C. Jackson
Named for the chief mining area of the Congo, today named Zaire.
- (1506) Xosa – 1939 May 15 by C. Jackson
Name of a tribe of native peoples of the Cape Province who early came into contact with the white people. Today spelt Xhosa.
Addendum B:Comets discovered by Cyril Jackson.
- Comet Jackson M1 â€“ 1935
- Comet 58P Jackson-Neujmin S1 – 1936 September 20.
- Comet 47P Ashbrook-Jackson Q1 – 1948 August 26.
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A portrait of Cyril Jackson taken in 1952, in Johannesburg, when he was director of the Yale-Columbia Southern Station at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Source: Magda Streicher Collection 001
Cyril Jackson (with pipe) and A.D.Thackeray.
Source: A.S.S.A. Symposium 2002: Paper 18 Cooper: A History of Comet Discovery from South Africa
Cyril Jackson with his dog Patches. The photo taken in the early fifties on the site of his Haenertsburg Observatory (Hilltop), shortly before building began.
Source: Magda Streicher Collection 014.