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Walter Frederick Gale

1865 – 1945

Walter Frederick Gale (1865-1945), banker and astronomer, joined the Savings Bank of New South Wales in 1888. In 1897 he was appointed accountant at the Newcastle branch, in 1914 manager at Newtown, in 1916 manager at Barrack Street, Sydney, and in 1917 manager and chief inspector at the head office. He retired in 1925, though when the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales closed in 1931 Gale became chairman of a committee formed to protect depositors. He was manager of Hoskins Investments Ltd until 1938. He had become interested in astronomy with the appearance of the Great Comet in 1882, and built a telescope in 1884. In 1893 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, London and visited Chile on a Lick Observatory eclipse expedition. The Illustrated Sydney News of 18 February 1893 carried an article titled ‘An Interesting Celestial Neighbour, Mars’ accompanied by four of his drawings of the planet. He also published drawings in the Journal and Memoirs of the British Astronomical Association. He pored over the surface features of Mars, was the first to note some, and believed that there must be life on the planet. He also held that the great turbulent activity in the atmosphere of Jupiter must be evidence of an internal energy source—this is now recognized. A founder and organizing secretary in 1894 of the New South Wales branch of the British Astronomical Association, he was its secretary for several years and later, for twenty years, its president. He was also chairman of the board of visitors of Sydney Observatory and a trustee of the Public Library of New South Wales from 1913 to 1937. Sweeping the sky on every clear night, he discovered independently seven comets, three of which bear his name, and some double stars which are also named after him. In 1935 he received the Jackson-Gwilt medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for his discoveries of comets and his work for astronomy in New South Wales. His other interests included coins, stamps and handwriting.

Updated 2018