Thiruvananthapuram

Tributes to John Caldecott

British actor Nick Caldecott said here on Monday that he was humbled by the warmth and respect paid to his ancestor John Caldecott by the academic community of the city.

A sixth generation descendant of the late Caldecott, Mr. Nick was taking part in a function organised by the University of Kerala to honour John Caldecott who was the founder director of Trivandrum Observatory, established by Maharaja Swati Tirunal in 1837.

University Vice Chancellor A. Jayakrishnan presided over the function in which head of the Department of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Achuth Sankar S. Nair, Observatory director-in-charge V. Biju and University Registrar K.S. Chandrashekhar were present.

“I am struck by the warmth and hospitality of the people in Trivandrum. I can imagine my ancestor coming here and achieving all that he has. It is really an honour for me to be part of this function,'' Mr. Nick said.

John Caldecott, a Fellow of Royal Society, established the observatory following an invitation by Swati Tirunal. He is also credited with publishing arguably the first modern scientific paper from Kerala in the Madras Journal of Science and Literature. Although he returned to London after his assignment here John Caldecott came back following the request of the Maharaja and breathed his last in the city.

Mr. Nick visited the English Church cemetery near the University Stadium where John Caldecott was buried.

Speaking about his family, Mr. Nick said that apart from three of his cousins there were very few people in the present generation of Caldecotts who were into Science. “We are more into the arts now. I studied English and French at Oxford University and after my studies I went into publishing. After five years in publishing I decided to pursue my interest in acting,'' he said.

Mr. Nick, who is a theatre and radio actor, is also part of Britain's epic television soap ‘Coronation Street.'

Sensitivity

Speaking at the function, Dr. Jayakrishnan said that although the fruits of science were used by the general public on a day to day basis, very few attempts were made to understand the history of science or teach it in colleges.

“As a nation, we lack sensitivity towards the history of science. A recent example is the nation-wide general strike called by all leading political parties on February 28, our National Science Day, which passed by unnoticed,'' he said.

Mr. Achuth Shankar said the demolition of the observatory established by John Caldecott less than a century afterwards in 1931 revealed our insensitivity towards history and archiving.

“But even today there is a scope to convert the old bungalow in front of the observatory into a science museum displaying all the astronomy equipment brought down by John Caldecott from England,'' he said.

He added that John Caldecott, who was also a tutor to the Maharaja's brother, was instrumental in brining modern science in its tangible to the city in those times.


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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 1:57:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/tributes-to-john-caldecott/article3273546.ece

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