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Authority record

Parsons, Laurence, 4th Earl of Rosse

  • Person
  • 1840-1908

Laurence Parsons, 4th Earl of Rosse, Baron of Oxmantown, 7th Baronet of Birr Castle, was born 17 November 1840 to William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, and Mary Field. Like his father, he pursued astronomy and is known for his attempt to design a truly flat mirror to use in a telescope. Lord Rosse succeeded his father as the 4th Earl of Rosse in 1867. In the same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. From the year of 1867-68, Lord Rosse served as a Justice of the Peace for King’s County, and was appointed High Sheriff of King’s County. On 1 September 1870, he married Lady Frances Cassandra Hawke, daughter of Lord Edward Harvey-Hawke, 4th Baron of Hawke, and Lady Frances Fetherstonhaugh. From 1881-87 Lord Rosse was the Vice-President of the Royal Society. From 1885 to 1908 he serves as the 18th Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin. He also was the Lord Lieutenant of King’s County, and Custos Rotulorum of King’s County from 1892 until 1908. In 1896 he was elected President of the Royal Irish Academy. In 1902 he received the honorary degree of Legum Doctor from the University of Wales, sharing the ceremony of the instalment of the Prince of Wales as Chancellor of the University of Wales. The 4th Earl of Rosse died on 29 August 1908, and was succeeded by his son, William Parsons, 5th Earl of Rosse.

Rosse, Mary, Countess of

  • Person
  • 1813-1885

Mary, Countess of Rosse, was born Mary Field, daughter of John Wilmer Field, in 1813. She married Lord William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse on 14 April 1836, moving from Yorkshire to Birr Castle, King’s County. She and Lord Rosse shared an interest in astronomy, and with significant financial investment on Lady Mary’s part they built the largest telescope in the world at the time, the ‘Leviathan of Parsonstown.’ Along with her interest in astronomy, Mary Rosse was an accomplished blacksmith, and aided in construction of the telescope. Her scientific interests brought her to become close friends with the cousin of the 3rd Earl, Mary Ward, who was a frequent visitor at Birr Castle. As the Countess of Rosse, she carried out significant renovations to Birr Castle under the advice of her uncle, Richard Wharton Myddleton. Through her many projects, she managed to employ over 500 men during the Great Famine of 1845-47. Overshadowing her renovations of Birr Castle, and aid in building the Leviathan of Parsonstown, Mary Rosse is best known for her work in early daguerreotype and glass plate photography. Her work was praised by a family acquaintance, William Henry Fox Talbot, and she joined the Dublin Photographic Society. In 1859 her work won her a silver medal for the best paper negative from the Photographic Society of Ireland. Mary Rosse had four children who survived to adulthood: Laurence (1840-1908), Randal (1848-1936), Richard Clere (1851-1923), and Charles (1854-1931). She died in 1885.