John Rand Capron (1829 – 1888)

John Rand Capron (1829 – 1888), was an amateur astronomer and highly respected spectrologist. Apart from practising as a solicitor he had a variety of other roles; Clerk of the Peace for the borough of Guildford; Chairman of Directors for Guildford Gas Light & Coke Company, and for some years Coroner.


John Rand Capron’s Observatory in Guildown,
Courtesy of Paul Fuller, SHC REF: PH/72/BOX5-19

John was educated at The Royal Grammar School, Guildford. While at school he had typhoid fever and during his recovery he was lent a microscope. This opened a new world of study, he became interested in the Earth’s surface and began making great progress in the field of geology, later in life.

He was originally fascinated by and interested in biology and geology, and later became interested in spectroscopy and astronomy he built a private observatory in Guildown, on the Hog’s Back and wrote various books, links to these can be found below in the further reading section.

In the early days of photography, spectroscopy involved mounting a prism onto a camera and taking photographs of various phenomena, such as rain, sunlight and the aurora borealis, in order to compare their spectrums.

On July 29, 1880 John recorded what may be the first report of a crop circle in a letter printed in the scientific journal Nature (volume 22, pages 290 and 291):

The storms about this part of Surrey have been lately local and violent, and the effects produced in some instances curious. Visiting a neighbour’s farm on Wednesday evening (21st), we found a field of standing wheat considerably knocked about, not as an entirety, but in patches forming, as viewed from a distance, circular spots. What did Capron find as he looked at the “circular spots” more closely?

Examined more closely, these all presented much the same character, viz., a few standing stalks as a centre, some prostrate stalks with their heads arranged pretty evenly in a direction forming a circle round the centre, and outside these a circular wall of stalks which had not suffered.

He suffered bad health and his illness became more serious in October 1888. He passed away in November 1888 in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

Surrey History Centre holds various collections relating to John Rand Capron and his work as a solicitor, click here to see a result of a search for Capron on the archive collections.

Further Reading

Works of John Rand Capron –

Journal Extract of Storm Effects –

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