Percy Wilkins was an amateur astronomer known worldwide for his work on the Moon. Wilkins was born and educated in Carmarthen. He served for a time in the army during the First World War and subsequently moved to Llanelli where he lived for a period in the 1930s. He was a lodger with a Mr. and Mrs. Philips at 56 James Street, where he assisted Mr. Philips who was a house painter by trade. As a very small child, living in number 60, I can recall that Wilkins spent long hours at a very large telescope in the garden of number 56. He helped to paint a couple of rooms in our house and I can remember his speaking to me about the telescope and related matters.
Percy Wilkins then moved to live at 22 Bradford Street Llanelli, where he had a private observatory, but he then moved to England (London?) to continue his life’s work - lunar astronomy. He was elected a member and then a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and became Director of the Lunar Section of the Society. He was elected Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society and was honoured by astronomical bodies in France, the United States, Spain and other countries. He produced detailed maps of the Moon and, in 1951, he completed a 300 inch diameter map that was considered by many astronomers as “the culmination of the art of selenography prior to the space age”. (Selenography is the study of the surface and physical features of the Moon).
The Moon maps produced by Wilkins were used by the Americans when they landed men on the Moon at the end of the 1960s. Unfortunately, he did not live to see this, as he died in Bexleyheath in 1960. He also published a number of books about the Moon, including two in collaboration with Sir Patrick Moore. A crater on the Moon is known as the Wilkins Crater. It lies in the Southern Uplands on the near side of the Moon and has a diameter of 57 km. I count it as a privilege that, even as a very small child, I knew and spoke to this distinguished astronomer about whom very little is apparently known by the people of Llanelli.
Llanelli Community Heritage would very much like to hear from anyone who may have known Mr. Wilkins or have information about him.
Click here for video at British Pathe News
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Click here for information on Hugh Percy Wilkins