Wednesday 25 May 2022

Scriven Bolton and the Japan British Exhibition of 1910


Scriven Bolton 1883-1929 is a Yorkshire astronomer whose life and work is hardly known yet his contributions in particular in the field of astronomical illustrations were incredible and his work almost certainly influenced the famous American space scientist Chesley Bonestell.

Bolton was honoured with the award of the Gold Medal at the Franco British exhibition in 1908 and in 1910 was presented with a diploma at the Japan British exhibition. In 1924 he was elected as a fellow of the royal society of arts.

Born in 1883 Thomas Simeon Scriven Bolton he inherited his mother’s maiden surname and was always known as Scriven. His father was a mill owner from Yeadon near Leeds. At the time of his birth the woollen textile business was thriving. A small recession in the early 1890 meant that his father took a aprt share in a mineral oil merchanting business, and the family moved to Waterloo Lodge an out of town villa in Bramley Leeds. Scriven followed his father into the business and it was a t Waterloo Lodge that he would build his large observatory housing his 26 inch reflector.

Scriven must have had an interest in astronomy from a young age because in 1899 at the age of 16 he joined the Leeds Astronomical Society. By 1906 his skills of drawing were such that he was sending drawings of the planet Jupiter to the astronomer royal William Christie. It was around this time that his work attracted attention from within the commercial world. He was soon sending astronomical drawings to the Illustrated London News, The New York Times, popular Science Monthly, the Sphere, The Graphic, Science and Invention, National Geographic and the Yorkshire Post. Plus numerous contributions to the English Mechanic. He drawings also appeared in the journals of the British Astronomical Association , The Royal astronomical society of which he was a fellow and of course Leeds AAS.

There is no definite list of the various publishing houses and authors who used his work, but the ones we know of include Chambers’s Astronomy, Hutchinsons Splendour of the Heavens and HH turner’s A Voyage in Space.

His drawings include those of the Earth and other bodies in the solar system, Bolton’s work clearly influenced Chesley Bonestell the legendary American space artist. Bonestell copied Bolton’s idea of making a 3 d plaster model and then photograph the models as a basis for their illustrations. This is the early 20th century version of CGI.

With his observations of the sky he made an observatory the so called Waterloo Observatory which housed his 26 inch reflector together wit a 10 inch reflector and a 6 inch 1908 the University made available its new Cecil Duncombe observatory on Woodhouse Moor, Florence Taylor the Yorkshire astronomer had donated £100 to the building of the observatory. Scriven Bolton was only one of two members of Leeds AS who were allowed time on the 18 inch telescope. Scriven’s home was within easy walking distance of this observatory.

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