May 18th Malachy Hitchins (Death)


Gwennap – born Malachy Hitchins (1741–1809) was a clergyman and renowned astronomer. A talented mathematician, Hitchins studied at Exeter College, Oxford and subsequently at St John’s College, Cambridge.

In 1767, Hitchins was introduced to the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne, who employed him as a computer at the Greenwich Royal Observatory verifying the calculations for the Nautical Almanack and observing and calculating the orbit of Venus around the sun.  He continued the Nautical Almanack work for the rest of his life employing a number of St. Hilary villagers as assistants through which he taught them mathematics and science.  Maskelyne also employed another Cornishman, John Arnold (August 11th), to reproduce John Harrison’s maritime timekeeper.

Having been ordained in 1769, Hitchins became Vicar of St. Hilary moving, ten years later to Gwinear whilst retaining the St. Hilary living. In 1801, he worked on the first census in Cornwall since he was noted for his attention to detail.

He was a close friend of Richard Polwhele (January 6th) and assisted him in his research for Polwhele’s ‘History of Cornwall’ and compiled material for his own history of the county which was edited by Samuel Drew after his death and was published in 1824.
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