A succession of observers were employed over the next 50 years. Robert S. Ball (1840-1913)--later Sir Robert, Astronomer Royal for Ireland--was observer and tutor in 1865-1866. Ralph Copeland, later Astronomer Royal for Scotland, was here in 1871-1874. John Louis Emil Dreyer, compiler of the New General Catalogue of clusters and nebulae in 1888, was here in 1874-1878.
William Parsons had three sons born at Birr. Laurence Parsons (1840-1908), later fourth Earl of Rosse from 1867, took an active interest in astronomy from his teens. Laurence made various improvements to the telescopes, fitting clock drives. His remounting of the 36 inch introduced the fork mounting, rotating head and moving observing platform, now standard ideas. He introduced spectroscopy, confirming Huggins' work on spectra of nebulae. His most notable work was determining the temperature of the moon's surface, obtaining results which were not fully accepted until the middle of the 20th Century. On 17 Sep 1877, Rosse confirmed the existence of Phobos and Deimos, the two dwarf moons of Mars discovered by Asaph Hall the previous month.
The youngest son, Charles Parsons (1854-1931)--later Sir Charles--achieved fame as an engineer, inventor of the steam turbine and creator of Grubb Parsons, telescope makers.
After Laurence's death in 1908, the 72 inch was dismantled and its mirror was sent to the Science Museum in London. The first World War and the Troubles meant that the rest of the structure decayed and most of the wooden parts were demolished in 1925. The 36 inch was reported as nearly intact in 1927, but has vanished. Most of the masonry structure and the tube of the 72 inch remain and there are remains of the forge where casting of mirrors was carried out. A model of the 72 inch telescope, its mirror and some eyepieces are in the Science Museum, London, but the Astronomy Gallery has been closed for some time and these items were not on view in 1993.
A museum was being built at Birr Castle in 1971. There is a statue of the third Earl in the town. A 1982 booklet says the tube can be seen between its supporting walls, that there is a tape of Patrick Moore narrating the story of the telescope, and that there is a display area at the base of the Leviathan and an exhibition room, initially commemorating the work of Sir Charles.
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An extract from The Mathematical Gazetteer of the British Isles created by David Singmaster
The original site is at THIS LINK