P.M. Ryves (1942–1956).
Percy Mayow Ryves was an amateur astronomer whose prime interests were the planet Mars and variable stars. For the close opposition of Mars in 1922, and to offset the problem of its extreme S. declination, Ryves went to Tenerife, taking with him the optics for a 25-cm reflector. For many years after that he lived in Zaragoza, Spain, utilising the hot, dry climate to make long unbroken series of observations of variable stars, some of which he published in detail in the RAS Monthly Notices. He earned what must have been a rather meagre living by giving private tuition in English, though earlier in his life he had apparently been a farmer (as noted upon his application form to be a Fellow of the RAS). He did apply for a Royal Society grant to provide him with financial support to carry on with his variable-star work (and some of this information comes from that application, found by chance in some old RGO archives in Cambridge), but in 1937 the Spanish Civil War broke out. Ryves was obliged to move back to England. There he lived within easy reach of Reverend T.E.R. Phillips’ observatory at Headley, Surrey. After the Second World War he moved to London, and then finally to Lane End, near High Wycombe. Ryves was already a veteran observer when he took over the Section. He was no longer unable to take an active part in observing after 1941. He went to some lengths to sort the backlog of observations, and he dispersed them to a number of Section members for the duration of the war. Thus all the papers survived. With the help of Dr A.F.O’D. Alexander, Ryves finally published the observations for the favourable apparition of 1941 in a memoir. He never managed to do anything with the rest of the material and the backlog of observations became insurmountable. In his last years Ryves started to publish a slim magazine for young people simply called Observation, one example of which I have in my files. Ryves was awarded the Walter Goodacre Medal of the BAA in 1955, but died in early 1956. Oddly, no obituary notice was published for him. In the index to Dr A.F.O’D. Alexander’s The Planet Uranus, Ryves’ year of birth is suggested to have been 1876. Our photograph of Ryves comes from a group portrait taken at a joint meeting of the RAS and the Manchester Astronomical Society at Jodrell Bank in July 1949, and the version reproduced here is a grainy enlargement from that picture. Ryves had two ‘Assistants to the Director’ – Ben Burrell and W.E. Fox. Burrell was a photographer who lived in Doncaster, and Fox worked as an engineer in Newark. Burrell continued in this capacity under the next Director. (Photo: The Observatory, 69, 121f (1949))
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