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Page last updated at 10:19 GMT, Thursday, 6 January 2011
John Couch-Adams Neptune discovery
Neptune by NASA
A Cornishman from Laneast discovered Neptune's existence

He should have been one of the biggest stars in the world of astronomy.

The oldest of seven children, John Couch Adams was born to poverty stricken tenant farmers in North Cornwall nearly 200 years ago.

He ended up being eclipsed despite making one of the most earth shattering discoveries in the heavens.

Using nothing more than mathematics - the Cornishman from Laneast near Launceston predicted the existence of Neptune.

A bust of John Couch-Adams

It is one of the biggest planets in the solar system.

Unfortunately for Couch-Adams, he was pipped to the post by a Frenchman.

The whole story will be told to thousands of keen astronomers at a special conference in Seattle this week by Brian Sheen, the Director of the Roseland Observatory.

Brian says it's sad his hero lost out on the accolade.

"The work was all done but it wasn't pursued with great drive.

"Eventually unfortunately a Frenchman did the calculations and managed to persuade a couple of young Germans, who happened to have their boss with them on a birthday party, to get the telescope of the Berlin Observatory pointing in the right direction and they found it ahead of time.

"I came across him when I was hiking in the Laneast area in the scouts, a long long time ago.

"I have kept my interest and there's a huge amount to be discovered in this county about what he did.

The work was all done but it wasn't pursued with great drive
Brian Sheen, the Director of the Roseland Observatory

"I have had the privilege of showing the people of Laneast the planet with quite decent telescopes. It's very small, really difficult to spot."

Couch-Adams made several important discoveries for the astronomy world including the Leonid meteor shower. The Cornishman rightly stated in 1864 that the meteor shower would occur two years later.

Having studied at Cambridge University he became Professor of Astronomy in Cambridge in 1858. Soon after he took on the role of director of the Cambridge Observatory.

Always noted as a modest man, Couch-Adams turned down the offer of a knighthood from Queen Victoria.

John Couch-Adams died in 1892. A memorial tablet, with an inscription by Archbishop Benson, is placed in the Cathedral at Truro. Passmore Edwards erected a public institute in his honour at Launceston, near his birthplace.

2011 is a special year for Neptune. It will complete its first orbit around the Sun on the 12th July.


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