Sébastian BÉCHAUX (1834–1870)
St Giles section: Row 29, Grave J28½

Sebastian Bechaux



[The surface bearing the rest of the
inscription has broken off]


Sébastian Béchaux was born at Porrentruy, Switzerland on 17 August 1834, the second son of Antony Augustine Béchaux. He went to Mr Duparquier’s school at Porrentruy. There are many variations of his name, some of which include additional forenames, such as Sébastian Louis Béchaux. Sometimes these forenames are anglicized, for example Sebastian Adrian Lewis Hippolytus Béchaux.

He was admitted as a sizar at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge at Easter 1856, when he was nearly 22 years of age (with his name now recorded as Sébastian Louis Adrien Hippolyte Béchaux). He was naturalized on 29 November 1858 with yet another slight variation of his name (Sébastian Adrien Louis Hippolyte Béchaux). He obtained his B.A. (as 16th Wrangler) in 1861.

In 1869, the year he was appointed Second Assistant at the Dublin Observatory, his book Mechanical Geometry was published in London with his forenames now completely juggled as Adrien Hippolyte L. S. Béchaux. Near the beginning of that same year he was married with this variation of his name in Islington to Margaret Critchley. They had one child:

  • Antony Béchaux (born in Oxford near the beginning of 1870, with birth registered in the Headington district).

Following the death of the First Assistant of the Radcliffe Observatory, Adolphus Quirling, on 8 June 1869 at the age of 44, and the subsequent promotion of John Lucas to his place. Béchaux was appointed Second Assistant. He took up his position on 22 March 1870 and worked under Dr Robert Main: he was chiefly employed in making observations with the Transit Circle, and in the reduction of the observations. The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reported in 1870: “Mr Béchaux took first-class mathematical honours in the year 1861, and the energy and zeal with which he has devoted himself to the active duties of astronomy since his connexion with the observatory, has already been productive of the happiest effects.”

Observatory from BlavatnikRadcliffe Observatory, viewed from the top of the Blavatnik Building in Walton Street

Béchaux and his family appear to have lived at South Parade.

Less than five months after his appointment at the Radcliffe Observatory, Béchaux died of heart disease. It was recorded in the Report of the Radcliffe Observer to the Board of Trustees that he had died soon after noon on Saturday 31 August 1870: “Mr Béchaux had been engaged in his duties with his usual activity during the morning, and had observed the Sun on the meridian, when he went to his home, which was very near the Observatory, intending to stay for a few minutes”, but dropped dead, with heart disease assumed:

†Sébastian Béchaux died at South Parade at the age of 34 on 13 August 1870 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 17 August (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church).

His short obituary in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 20 August 1870 read:

Aug. 13, almost suddenly, of disease of the heart, S. Béchaux, Esq., Second Assistant of the Radcliffe Observatory. Mr. Béchaux was a man of high mathematical acquirements, having taken first-class honours at Cambridge, in the year 1861. Since his connection with the Observatory, which commenced in the spring of 1869, his services have been very valuable, and his loss will be much felt and regretted. Mr. Béchaux was the author of a Treatise on Mechanical Geometry.

An inquest was held into his death, and it was reported thus in the Oxford Times of 20 August 1870:

SUDDEN DEATH IN SOUTH PARADE.— On Saturday last, an inquest was held in South Parade, by W. Brunner, Esq., touching the death of Sebastian Louis Bechaux, aged 34, an assistant at the Observatory. Margaret Bechaux, the widow of the deceased, said her husband went to work at the Observatory as usual that morning, and returned at twelve o’clock. On going out of the room he exclaimed that he was faint, and immediately fell to the floor. She called for assistance, and Mr. Win[k]field, the surgeon, came, but deceased was dead. He had fallen the previous day, but had not hurt himself.— Mr. A. Winkfield, surgeon, deposed to being called to see the deceased, and from what was stated by the widow, and from his own observations, he considered that death was from disease of the heart.— The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical testimony.

Béchaux’s position at the Radcliffe Observatory was filled by Gabriel Keating.

It is hard to find his wife and son in the UK after his death.



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