December 20: Roberdeau Buchanan (1916)

Roberdeau Buchanan was a mathematical astronomer. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania November 22, 1839, the son of U.S. Navy Pay Director McKean and Selina (Roberdeau) Buchanan. He was educated in the public schools of Charlestown in Boston, Massachusetts, at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University, graduating with a bachelor of science in the class of 1861. Buchanan engaged in practice as a civil engineer. Buchanan became connected with the Nautical Almanac in 1879 and became mathematical astronomer in the Nautical Almanac Office, at the U.S. Naval Observatory. The nautical almanac is a publication describing the positions of a selection of celestial bodies for the purpose of enabling navigators to use celestial navigation to determine the position of their ship while at sea. In the United States, a nautical almanac has been published annually by the U.S. Naval Observatory since 1852.

Buchanan was the author of various technical and biographical works, including, The Mathematical Theory of Eclipses, a book very helpful to astronomers even today; Treatise on the Projection of the Sphere; and An Introduction to the Differential Calculus by Means of Finite Differences. Buchanan also wrote genealogies of the Roberdeau, Shippen and McKean families as well as a book of poetry entitled, Occasional Verses Written During Leisure Hours. The funerals of his mother, Frances Selina Buchanan (1893), Roberdeau Buchanan (1916) and his wife, Eliza Buchanan (1919), all took place at the Church of the Epiphany prior to their interment in the family plot at Oak Hill Cemetery.

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