A NEW plaque has been unveiled in York to commemorate scientist and inventor Thomas Cooke.

York Civic Trust, York Museums Trust, and Yorkshire Philosophical Society presented a blue plaque on Friday, in honour of Thomas Cooke, the internationally-renowned optical instrument maker.

Tomas Cooke was born in Allerthorpe, near Pocklington, East Riding of Yorkshire and established his first optical business in a small shop at 50 Stonegate, York, and later moved to larger premises in Coney Street. He built his first telescope for William Gray. At that time, the excise tax on glass discouraged the making of refracting telescopes, which were usually imported from abroad. Cooke was thus one of the pioneers of making such telescopes in Britain.

The plaque is attached to the façade of The Observatory building in the Museum Gardens as the Observatory houses a telescope of 1850 by Thomas Cooke.

Over 60 people attended that unveiling ceremony that was marked by short speeches by Dr Peter Addyman, President of York Civic Trust; Stuart Ogilvy, Deputy Curator of Geology at the Yorkshire Museum, and Catherine Brophy, Chair of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society.

Catherine Brophy Yorkshire Philosophical Society, Chair, said:“Largely self-taught Thomas Cooke was ‘one of the greatest telescope makers of all time’. Recognising his talent members of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, as both supporters and customers, involved Cooke in the development of the Observatory in York Museum Gardens. So it is most appropriate that we celebrate his life and work with this plaque on the Observatory.

Dr Duncan Marks, York Civic Trust, Interim Executive Manager, said:“The career of Thomas Cooke continues to have appeal today. He was a self-taught and self-made man who designed and built machines, large and small, that directly expanded knowledge in such diverse fields of endeavour as astronomy, civil engineering, communications and medicine.”

“While Cooke’s telescopes and observatories can be found the world-over, it is absolutely right that his life and deeds are celebrated by a plaque here in York. This is where he first succeeded in building telescopes, where his factories were built; the Observatory in the city’s Museum Gardens has a fine working, example of one of his telescopes, and he is buried in York Cemetery."