Charles Piazzi Smyth has to be one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever had the privilege to research. A pioneering astronomer, photographer, Egyptologist and, in the words of Sir Flinders Petrie, a ‘Pyramidiot’.
Researching into Piazzi Smyth has been easy, thanks to the wonderful work of David Winpenny of Ripon Civic Society. After half an hour’s meeting in the Old Deanery, I came away with a book on pyramids, inspired by Piazzi Smyth’s pyramidal grave in our churchyard, and an article written for Ripon Gazette detailing the exploits of this fascinating man.
As a photographer, I was delighted to hear that Piazzi Smyth was a keen snapper and, indeed, the first man to photograph inside the Great Pyramids of Giza. In this, he was assisted by his wife, Jessie, who herself must have been a remarkable woman; she is pictured in some of the photographs. Piazzi Smyth used burning magnesium wire as a primitive form of camera flash to provide the necessary light for the dark conditions inside the pyramid.