John William (J. W.) Lubbock, third baronet Lubbock (1803-1865), was an accomplished banker, administrator, astronomer, and mathematician. Born in Westminster, he was best known for bringing together large amounts of raw data to test and refine prevailing scientific theories. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, but he also studied mathematics while traveling in Milan and Paris.
Lubbock joined his father’s bank as a junior partner in 1827. Until 1834, Lubbock lived just across the street from the Royal Society, and he became a fellow there in 1829, serving as its treasurer and vice-president from 1830 to 1835, and from 1838-1847.
He was a prominent member of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK), where he helped to found the British Almanac in 1827. He also later published a treatise On Probability with John Elliot Drinkwater for the SDUK.
He was also part of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Geological Society of London, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. From 1838-41 and 1843-54, he served on two royal commissions on weights and measures, alongside John Herschel and George Biddell Airy. He was also the first vice-chancellor of London University (1838-42) and a treasurer of the 1851 Great Exhibition.
During the 1830s and 1840s, his scientific work flourished, especially with regard to planetary motion, lunar theory, and tide tables. He also was responsible for introducing the work of several prominent European scientists to British intellectual circles, including Frenchmen Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Phillippe de Pontécoulant, and François Pambour; the Italian astronomer Giovanni Plana; and the Norwegian mathematician Niels Abel. Lubbock was close friends with many of the scientific luminaries of the day, including Charles Babbage, William Whewell, Herschel, Airy, and Charles Darwin, who was his neighbor in Kent.
In terms of cartography, Lubbock oversaw the creation of the two maps included with his 1831 article, “On the Tides in the Port of London,” published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Part II). He also produced a set of six star maps on a gnomonic projection for the SDUK, a subject on which he also wrote an article.