THERE’S a chance to find out about Bradford’s ‘astounding astronomer’, Abraham Sharp, when Bradford Cathedral holds a space-themed open day.

The free event, which includes the chance to take a solar system selfie, is on Saturday, October 22, from noon to 3.30pm. Rod Hine of Bradford Astronomical Society will give a talk, and there’s a space-themed organ recital, with pieces from TV shows and movies, from the Cathedral’s Assistant Director of Music Graham Thorpe and organist Anthony Gray. There are space-themed children’s activities, the chance to see Abraham Sharp’s monument in the Cathedral, an inflatable solar system allowing visitors to discover how far apart the planets would be if the solar system was crammed into the Cathedral, and other discoveries by Sharp, including his calculation of pi. Maggie Myers, Director of Education and Visitors, says: “We’re delighted to showcase this fascinating mathematician and astronomer, born in 1653 in Little Horton, who went on to be assistant to the first ever Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed.”

Says Rod Hine: “My talk describes Abraham’s life and work in the context of the times. The 17th century saw amazing advances in astronomy and other sciences, and Sharp was at the centre of work at the Greenwich Royal Observatory. You don’t need knowledge of astronomy as I shall explain as we go along.”

T&A nostalgia writer Martin Greenwood pays tribute to Abraham Sharp in his book, Every Day Bradford. Writes Martin: “Abraham was born into one of Bradford’s most established families, living at Horton Hall. He attended the first Bradford Grammar School where he loved mathematics. Aged 16 he was apprenticed to a textile dealer but later moved to London and developed an interest in astronomy. He was assistant for John Flamsteed and he calculated ‘pi’ to 72 decimal places. In 1694 Sharp returned to Bradford and had a letter from Edmund Halley, the most eminent astronomer of the day, suggesting he apply for the mathematical chair at Christ’s Hospital in London. Sharp declined and remained in Bradford until his death in 1742. He extended Horton Hall to accommodate ‘Sharp’s Observatory’, the only such observatory in England outside Greenwich. In 1963 it was sadly demolished.

From his Bradford home, Sharp made a huge contribution to astronomy. He designed the Mural Arc, enabling Flamsteed to measure the stars - in 1995 it was described as ‘the finest and most exact astronomical instrument constructed to date’ - and compiled the three-volume Historia Coelestis Britannica, the first catalogue of the stars. His most surprising legacy is the naming of a lunar crater, Sharp’s Crater, giving a place for Bradford on the moon 250 years after his death.”

l To book for the Cathedral tours, recital or talk visit