James Couper (astronomer)

James Couper (9 August 1752 – 7 August 1836) was a Scottish astronomer. He was Professor of Astronomy at the University of Glasglow from 1803 to 1836.

James Couper
Born9 August 1752 (1752-08-09)
Died7 January 1836 (1836-01-08) (aged 83)
Alma materGlasgow University
Margaret Thomson
(m. 1783)
Scientific career
InstitutionsGlasgow —University
The grave of James Couper, Ramshorn Cemetery, Glasgow


Couper was Professor of Astronomy at the University of Glasgow from 1803 to 1836. He also held other positions within the university including:

  • Dean of Faculties 1800–1801
  • Clerk of Senate from 1810 to 1814, 1820 to 1828
  • keeper of the Hunterian Museum (a joint position with his sons)

He taught very little Astronomy and abandoned observations because of the increasing smoke and new buildings in the surrounding areas of the observatory. He seemed not to have considered building a new observatory outside the town.

Couper was a student at the University of Glasgow and graduated Master of Arts in 1775, and Doctor of Divinity in 1800. He became minister of Baldernock Parish Church in 1783 until his appointment to the Regius Chair of Astronomy in 1803. In November 1813 Couper took on responsibility for teaching Hebrew when the then Professor of Oriental Languages became ill.

He is buried in Ramshorn Cemetery on Ingram Street in Glasgow.[1] The grave lies on the western wall of the main eastern entrance, close to where the cemetery widens.


Couper became minister of Baldernock Parish Church,[2] East Renfrewshire, in 1783. In 1795, the present Church building was constructed during his tenure. Couper wrote in his first Statistical Account; "The greater part of the inhabitants of this parish devote their time to that most innocent and most useful of secular employments, the cultivation of the earth".

The "living" received by Couper in 1783 consisted of "63 bolls[3] of meal, £331 in money. a manse and a Glebe of 10 acres whereof seven are arable".


James Couper married Margaret Thomson on 11 November 1783. They had 7 children; John Couper, b. 16 Jan 1785, d.(date unknown); Rev. James Couper, MA, b. 17 Aug 1786, d. 29 Mar 1822; Sarah Couper, b. 5 Apr 1788, d.(date unknown); Robert Thomson Couper, b. 6 Jan 1790, d. 4 Feb 1803; William Couper, M.D., b. 30 Apr 1792, d. 4 Aug 1857; Henry Glassford Couper, b. 20 May 1793, d. 27 Oct 1800; Henry Couper, b. 20 Sep 1801, d.(date unknown)


  1. ^ "FREE Scottish family tree inscriptions and links from HappyHaggis". www.happyhaggis.co.uk.
  2. ^ "Baldernock Parish Church". Scotlands Churches Trust. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  3. ^ 1 boll is 6 Bushels

External linksEdit

Academic offices
Preceded by Regius Professor of Practical Astronomy
at Glasgow University

Succeeded by