Dr Harold Whichello (1870-1945) – Surgeon, Linguist and Astonomer

Dr Harold Whichello

Harold Whichello was the eldest son of Henry Whichello (a timber merchant) and Amy Elizabeth Whichello. He was born on 31 March 1870 in Linslade, Leighton Buzzard, was educated and boarded at Bedford Modern School (January 1882- December 1886), studied at the Universities of Göttingen and Geneva before becoming a student of medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. He was fluent in both German and French. 

During the latter years of the 19th century and confirmed in the 1901 Census, Harold Whichello, aged 31 and fully qualified (MRCS, LRCP, LSA), had located to ‘The Mount’ on the High Street in Tattenhall. His medical practice was registered at this address.

His mother, Amy Whichello, is listed as resident with him on Census night; living ‘by her own means’. Interestingly, his father Henry Whichello does not appear to have been at ‘The Mount’ on Census night. That said, by 1906 Henry Whichello is certainly recorded in Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire as living at ‘Sunnyside’, High Street. Presumably, Dr Whichello’s parents had moved to Tattenhall to be near their accomplished son. They are both buried in the Churchyard of St Alban’s.

Bedford Modern School late 19th century – attended by Harold Whichello and his younger brother, Norman

In the summer of 1902 Dr Harold Whichello married Blanche Mary Read who was resident at ‘Kenwyn’, Dee Banks, Chester. She was the daughter of Colonel Alfred Read, a Shipowner. Married at the Parish Church of St Paul’s in Great Boughton, they settled into married life in Dr Harold Whichello’s house, ‘The Mount’, on the High Street in the village. They were to have 2 daughters who were both born in Tattenhall, namely Mary Blanche Whichello and Eva Florence Whichello.  In the 1911 Census, Dr Harold Whichello was listed as ‘General Medical Practitioner’.

Whilst a ‘General Medical Practitioner’ in the village, The Cheshire Observer dated 20 May 1899 records a particularly harrowing incident when the young Dr Whichello was called to the scene of a lightning strike near Owler Hall, just outside of the village of Tattenhall. Two brothers who were riding in a horse and trap during a thunderstorm, were killed instantaneously by the strike. One brother, George, ‘was seriously disfigured…(his) face and breast were severely singed, the lightning having burned holes in his waistcoat, shirt and singlet and his collar stud was driven into his neck’.  The brothers were two of the sons of the ‘Cooke’ family who lived at Tattenhall Hall (click on ‘Lightning Strike 1899’ to be directed to this section of the Website). Dr Whichello subsequently wrote an article on this very topic for the Medical Journal, ‘The Lancet’.

The Mount, High Street, Tattenhall, in the back garden of which was Dr Whichello’s ‘observatory’

Dr Harold Whichello was also a respected and much published astronomer. For many years he used a 9 inch reflector and a 6 inch refractor in an observatory that he had established in the back garden of his residence (the former used a 9 inch mirror to collect the light from the stars, whilst the latter used a 6 inch lens). He was a long standing member of the British Astronomical Association (BAA) which had been established in 1890 and he submitted several papers to its Journal, most of which related to astronomical observations. His principal observations related to the moon, the sun and variable stars. In one instance, the BAA Lunar Section Director, Walter Goodacre, commented that ‘Dr. Whichello (had) been very active in making sketches of different formations, of which about thirty (had) been sent in. These illustrated, among other objects, rilles and ridges near Cauchy, the West Wall of Hipparchus, Posidonius and several of Atlas’.

Dr Whichello was also an active participant in the work of the Liverpool Astronomical Society, serving as its President and Secretary at various times. Locally, he was a member of the Astronomical Section of the Chester Society of Natural Science and Art which was founded by Charles Kingsley. This Society, established in 1871, was later to become the ‘Chester Society of Natural Science, Literature and Art’, its objective being the promotion of ‘the study of Natural Science and Literature by Lectures, Field Visits, the Reading and Discussions of Papers and other suitable means’. Dr Harold Whichello gave numerous talks on astronomy to both Societies.

The first two decades of the 20th century were to be particularly interesting for our local doctor. In May of 1900 he travelled to Algiers as part of the BAA’s Solar Eclipse Expedition, his fluency in French being widely admired. Dr Harold Whichello also translated French astronomical expressions into English for the various meetings he attended. He was subsequently awarded life membership of The Société Astronomique de France. In 1927 he was also awarded ‘The Kingsley Memorial Medal’ for his work on variable stars, this award being issued to those individuals who had ‘contributed materially to the promotion and advancement of some branch of Natural Science’.

‘Der Mund’

Dr Whichello was also instrumental in securing a copy of Wilhelm Beer and Johann von Madler’s definitive text ‘Der Mond’ (the Moon) which was published in Berlin in 1837 and which was subsequently presented to the Manchester Astronomical Society by Dr Whichello in 1939.

The views expressed in this publication were pioneering in that they maintained the Moon was airless, waterless and lifeless and, by definition, ‘changeless’. Their findings were a catalyst in creating an entirely new view of the Moon.

It is generally recognised that ‘medicine’s loss was astronomy’s gain’, Dr Whichello having retired relatively early from his medical career because of a hearing impairment. At the time of his death in 1945, he had moved from Tattenhall and was resident at 29 Liverpool Road, Chester. He died on 16 May 1945 aged 75 years, obituaries in both the Chester Chronicle and Chester Courant listing him as ‘MD, LRCP, FRAS’. His funeral took place at Chester Cathedral.

Particular thanks to local amateur astronomer, Dr Jeremy Shears, who has been invaluable in the production of this Webpage and who is currently undertaking more detailed research on Dr Harold Whichello. In this respect, should anyone have further specific information relating to this remarkable former resident of Tattenhall, then please use the ‘Contact Us’ facility on the Toolbar.

Update – April 2013.
Since the production of this Webpage, a paper produced by Dr Jeremy Shears (and to a much lesser extent by Terri Hull) has been accepted for publication by the British Astronomical Association (BAA) Council. It will be about a year until it appears in print. In the meantime the text version is now available on Cornell University’s arXiv server, specifically the “History and Philosophy of Physics Section” here:
It will also be referenced in the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory/NASA Astrophysics Data System database.

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