Sadly Madeline Cox passed away in January 2015.

This came as sad and unexpected news to the members of the society. Madeline was a very active member and was due to give a talk on the second meeting in February. It is hoped that we can preserve this meeting in future to have a memorial talk on some topic of Astronomy History. This would be a fitting tribute, acknowledging her chair position in the Society for the History of Astronomy.

Our thoughts and sympathies go out to Les and Madeline's family. She will be sadly missed and affectionately remembered by all who knew her.

Madeline sent me this poetry and I published it to the website some time ago. She said she was a bit shy of publishing it, but I think it reveals her technical expertise and love of the night sky.

On Looking At the Ring Nebula: A Tribute To Sir William Herschel

You ghostly ellipse in the double-studded Lyre,

You guard your secrets closely

Vega boasts its blueness brightly

You conceal yours dimly

Hidden in rings of red and green.


What violent deeds once shaped your form

In far-off days when life was young?

You raged against the dying light,

Threw off your shell, prolonged your life.

Kept whole your inner self.


But blueness does not last for ever.

A black-dwarf star will be your end.

Till then I wish you life, not death,

You ghostly ring, you eerie friend.

Oort Cloud


Out there, just a light year away,

Lies a great big cloud called Oort,

Where comets swarm out of season,

Like locusts in wet weather.


I can see them at their annual meeting,

Discussing the news from the solar system -

A strange looking shape that was seen near Uranus

Or the metal bird that crashed on launch.


But the star of their show will be King Halley,

The proudest comet of the Cloud.

What tales he’ll tell when he returns,

Of how we tried to probe his secrets

With our giant dish and massive shield.

Of how he sent us spinning, rocking for a while,

Putting our prying eye to rout.

Oh, yes, he’ll be the hero, and they’ll be envious,

Queuing to join the same elliptical course.


But first they’ll do the annual head count,

Like some world war pilot after battle,

Seeing which of their number did not return,

Destroyed and shattered by the Sun’s great force.

And they’ll remember them with special pride,

Those comets of yesterday,

Seeing their memorial in the swarm of meteors

That fall like showers of poppies to the earth.


Yet still they’ll keep on coming,

Their orbits long or short,

For a comet’s life’s in roving,

Not staying at home in Oort.



I saw Orion rise at dawn,

Before the Sun one August morn.

He chased the Pleiades above,

That hunter brave, that man of love.


In ancient myth he sought the light,

The Sun restored his stolen sight.

For Chios’ king had blinded him,

For all his gross philandering.


But now it’s not the Sun he chases,

The winter sky he nightly graces.

So if you see him rise –beware,

Chill winter’s snow may soon be here.

Peter on Mars


There’s Peter on a Martian boulder,

His SLR slung round his shoulder.

He’s trying to keep the frost at bay,

It’s cold here on the warmest day.


With sky of pink and ground of red,

And Phobos whizzing overhead.

Our hero’s sad and all alone,

Fifty million miles from home.


But astronauts are always tough,

Especially when the going’s rough.

So Peter reads his map again -

He’s sure he’ll find some little green men.


He’s been perched there for many a day,

Trying to figure out a way

To lure those Martians from their lairs,

Digging canals for all they’re worth.


But Martian men (and women too)

Don’t like the looks of me and you.

They’re very shy and won’t come out –

At least when humans are about.


So Peter sighs and packs his bags.

He’s had enough of cold and crags,

He’s homeward bound, back to his base,

Away from Mars and outer space.


But spacemen never lose their grip –

He’s planning now a longer trip.

A black hole this time his is aim,

To find his fortune and his fame.


So if you’re out alone tonight,

And see a bloke whiz out of sight,

Don’t worry – it’s not faulty vision,

Just Peter on his latest mission.

The Origin of the Universe


It all began a while ago,

At least before last year,

When space and time and mass were one,

And course work wasn’t here.


It started with a Great Big Bang,

Like some gigantic cracker,

When quarks and photons flew about,

And started making matter.


The matter came from all the bits

That were left over from

The mutual destruction

Of many a positron.


As things cooled down (well just a bit)

Primieval soup did swell

From nuclei of hydrogen

And helium as well.


Time had been born and atoms formed

And light could pass through space.

At round about three thousand K

Things had moved on apace.


A billion years passed in a jif

And galaxies appeared,

Some superstrings and clusters too

Though how remains unclear.


Then came the stars and planets too

And life on earth got started.

It formed four billion years ago,

Before exams were thought of.


How will it end? Where did it start?

Why did these things occur?

The mysteries abound, my friend –

We still don’t know for sure.


Is our world open? Is it closed?

Unique, or simply one

Of many that have come and gone ?

The quest goes on and on.


That missing mass, those quasars bright,

Black holes and G.U.T.

I cannot solve them all right now –

Least not till after tea.



I saw lovely Venus last night,

Saw her wink and kiss the crimson cheek of sunset.

Radiant, alluring, she seemed to say

‘Come find me quickly, I shall not stay’.


I’d wandered far along the icy lane,

Hoping swift Mercury would be my prize.

But that hot-headed fellow was already gone,

Too hasty on his journey round the Sun.


Venus will outshine him any time,

With her brilliance and seductive power.

Full of promise, her time will come

And I will go again to seek her out,

Alone, along the lane at sunset.