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We have his obituary from Volume LIII of the transactions for 1920
Charles Thomas Whitmell, M.A., B.SC. Born 1849. Died 1919.
Mr. C. T. Whitmell was born at Leeds, and was educated at the Leeds Grammar School, and Trinity College, Cambridge, passed first class in Natural Science, and subsequently obtained his B.Sc. at London University. Appointed Assistant Inspector of Schools at Sheffield, he subsequently became Chief Inspector for the Cardiff district in 1882, in which year he joined the Cardiff Naturalists' Society, and was at once elected to the Committee.
He devoted himself assiduously to the interests of the Society and was one of the most energetic members. He joined the Physical and Chemical Section and was appointed Hon. Secretary of that section in May, 1888, an office he held until the end of the following year, he identified himself closely with that Section and enriched its proceedings with many original papers. In 1892 he was elected to the Presidency, taking for his Presidential Address Tennyson's Knowledge and Use of Science." His removal to Leeds in 1896 was a severe loss to the Society.
Among the many papers read before the Society were Colour," Space and its Dimensions," The Yellowstone National Park," etc.
After leaving Cardiff he was in charge of a portion of the West Riding area, retiring in 1911. Not only was Mr. Whitmell an authority on all things pertaining to education, but in all branches of science he was a diligent student. Astronomy he had made his own, being a prominent member of the Leeds Astronomical Society. He was also a member of the Leeds Geological Society, and of the Philosophical and Literary Society, of which last he had occupied the Presidential Chair. His mathematical abilities made him a Court of Appeal" to readers of the English Mechanic in all algebraic or trigonometric difficulties.
He died of pneumonia on December 10th, 1919, after little more than a week's illness. Mr. William A. Jesper of York, has kindly furnished the particulars from which most of the foregoing note has been compiled.
Charles T Whitmell from Journal and Transactions of the Leeds Astronomical Society (1900, v.8) Courtesy of David Sellers, LAS Editor
As Chief Inspector of Schools he had an important and visible position and therefore it is not surprising that as early as 1883 he is reported as being present at the opening of the university. According to other sources this was just the tip of his interests. he was a keen campaigner for educational and cultural institutions and events to be open on Sundays so that it was "within reach of those who toil all the rest of the week the means of innocent recreation"
Sunday Opening Of The Cardiff Fine Art Exhibition South Wales Daily News 9th May 1884
South Wales Echo 30th May 1893 Sunday Movement At Cardiff
He continued to be a central feature of newspaper reports and a search of the Welsh Newspapers Archive of the National Library of Wales gives over 1500 results many of which are in relation to his inspections of schools, but also his campaigning for better schools, better teaching and for the better training of teachers. And it is clear from some of the articles and letters in the newspapers that he sometimes courted, and was not one to shy away from controversy
South Wales Daily News 27th August 1891 Attendance at The British Association
The Western Mail 24th November 1885 To The Editor Of The Western Mail
South Wales Daily News 25th November 1885 The Attack On Mr C. T. Whitmell
However it is as a scientist and especially an astronomer interested in planetary sciences that he should probably be best remembered and he was as noted in his obituary a regular contributor to the society with talks such as this
Evening Express 15th March 1895 Studying The Skies.
In all local educational movements Mr. Whitmell has been an enthusiastic worker. He in a member of the Council of the University College and a governor of Aberdare Hall. He has also been closely connected with the Cardiff Recreative Evening Classes Association, the Association for Promoting the Education of Girls in Wales, and the local branch of the N.U.T. Of various learned bodies Mr. Whitmell has long been an active member, including the Chemical and Geological Societies.
His lectures before the Cardiff Naturalists (of which body he is a past president) will long be remembered for their quiet humour, their comprehensiveness, and their admirable lucidity. To the British Astronomical Association he has contributed many valuable papers, and he is nominated as president for 1897-98. of the Astronomical Society of Wales, in which he has taken the liveliest interest since its inception.
As an author, his handbook on Light and Colour is one of the most exhaustive of the kind that has been published, and is the very antithesis of the paste-and-scissors work only too common nowadays. To an all round knowledge of Science Mr. Whitmell adds mathematical powers of a high order, and he is never so happy as when discussing knotty problems in the company of some kindred spirit.
An extensive traveller, Mr. Whitmell has seen many phases of life in America and on the Continent. He has studied on the spot the school system of San Francisco, and examined a class of native children in the neighbourhood of the North Cape!
Wearing his "weight of learning lightly as a flower," Mr. Whitmell is one of the most modest and retiring of men; one of the most kind-hearted, too, as witness his efforts in connection with the memorial to the unhappy parachutist who met her death so sadly in the neighbourhood of Cardiff. For many a year to come the memory of Mr. Whitmell will be a fragrant one in south-east Wales, and heartiest good wishes will follow him to his new sphere of labour in the "north countree."
Picture and excerpt (above) from The Western Mail 12th January 1897 Removal Of Mr. Whitmell To Leeds.
There are many internet resources regarding Charles Whitmell in Astronomical Society publications and others some links are available here: -
Journal of the British Astronomical Association, Vol. 30, pp.97-99
it is often said that behind every great man there is a great woman and in this case that seems as true as ever. His wife Lucy was recognised as an accomplished poet. She was the author of the poem Christ in Flanders which appeared in the Spectator of September 11th, 1915
Page Update 12-Aug-2018
At the event when we hosted the Insole Court Tree Walk on Saturday on the 9th of June 2018, I was approached by one of the Insole Court research group about a possible picture of one of our former presidents. On finding that book "Contemporary Portraits Men and Women of South Wales and Monmouthshire, Western Mail Limited 1896" I found that it contained a number of portraits of our former presidents. One of Charles Whitmell is now shown here in a better quality from the book
Charles Whitmell - from Contemporary Portraits Men and Women of South Wales and Monmouthshire, Western Mail Limited 1896
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These pages are part of the Cardiff Naturalists' Society 150th Anniversary celebrations and are about our history and are celebrating the people who developed our Society and helped build the city and the cultural heritage of Cardiff. You can read more about that using the links above
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