Flamsteed Astronomy Society

John Griffiths — a tribute

April 2010

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Members of the Flamsteed were shocked and saddened by the news of the sudden death of Dr John Griffiths on April 9, 2010.  John was 57.  He was with his wife Kath at their home in El Bosque southern Spain.  John died from a heart attack.

John regularly taught introductory astronomy courses for adults at the Observatory as well as astronomy GCSE classes for children from local boroughs.  Many Flamsteeders joined the Society on John’s recommendation after meeting him in one of his much-loved classes.  He was an enthusiastic Flamsteed member and led popular telescope workshops for the Society and members of the public.

John grew up near Swansea in the village of Ystradgynlais and he was always proud of his native Wales.  He read astronomy at University College London and went on to write his doctorate in infra-red astronomy.  This took him downunder to the Anglo-Australian telescope at Siding Spring New South Wales.  His time in Oz must have done wonders for his love of rugby and sense of competition!  He published a couple of papers and was granted his PhD in 1977 for ‘The Galactic HII Region G333.6-0.2’.

John joined the Science Museum in London.   He had a long list of publications to his name, many relating to spaceflight and astronomy.  Later his activities diversified and we find him publishing on subjects as wide apart as ‘clothing in cricket’ and telecommunications.  In 1983 he is pictured with HRH the Prince of Wales at the opening of the new Telecommunications Gallery… at least the caption says it’s John – well camouflaged behind a long beard and hair-style!   He migrated to ‘media technologies’ and in 2002 he was reporting on the donation of the BBC’s first radio transmitter, the 2LO transmitter.  He was proud, too, of his efforts to save the last Fleet Street printing press for the Museum.  Around 2003, with money getting tight at the Science Museum, John took the decision to break out and go it alone with a freelance career in astronomy.

At Greenwich he met then Public Astronomer, Robert Massey, and started work at the ROG.  He joined the presenters in the old Caird Planetarium (in the dome atop the South Building) and we have him pictured at the final Flamsteed show before the planetarium was removed and the building closed for renovation in 2004.  John began teaching GCSE astronomy classes and was soon expanding to adult courses, as well as working with the team on the ‘Evenings with the Stars’ events with the 28-inch Great Equatorial telescope.  His classes thrived and grew -- his enthusiasm was infectious for both kids and adults alike.


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John Griffiths by Mike DrylandJohn Griffiths by Mike DrylandJohn Griffiths by Mike DrylandJohn Griffiths by Mike DrylandJohn Griffiths astronomy class at YES Greenwich by Mike Dryland

John with HRH Prince Charles 1983

© Science Museum/Science & Society

Class at Y.E.S. Greenwich

[Pic: Mike Dryland]

Telescope Workshop at the ROG

[Pic: Mike Dryland]

Dr John Griffiths [Pics: Mike Dryland]