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John Rand Capron
John Rand Capron
Clerk of the Peace for the Borough of Guildford, Chairman of Directors Guildford Gas Light & Coke Company, Solicitor, For some years Coroner.
19th February 1829 - 12th November 1888.
A recent article by Christian Taylor in the Surrey Advertiser told how John Rand Capron of Guildown Road, Guildford had in 1880 researched the causes of crop circles, which had appeared on the Hogs Back. He was described as a well-known local figure, amateur astronomer and a highly respected spectroscopist.

John Rand Capron had a connection with Normandy in that he owned a fir plantation bordering the north of Pirbright Road near to the junction with Guildford Road at Elm Hill.

The Tithe map for the Tithing of Wyke of 1841 shows the property as a fir plantation owned by Mary Mangles the widow of James Mangles of 'Woodbridge', Guildford. It is shown as two adjacent plots. One of 18 acres 36 poles, the other of 1 acre 3 roods and 2 poles. At that time the plantation was bordered on the east by another plantation owned by William Newland of Bramley and which later became the Normandy Park Estate and bordered on the west by a Common Allotment, described as "heath", owned by George Woodroffe and tenanted by Robert Hart. On the north the plantation was bordered by Wyke Glebe, another Common Allotment of heath, nominally owned by The Reverend George Bethell, then Rector of Worplesdon. Wyke Glebe was then in Worplesdon Parish. The southern border of the plantation was the present Pirbright Road.

We do not know when the plantation came into the possession of Capron but a map attached to an Abstract of Title to Normandy Park Estate of 1890 shows the bordering property as belonging to him. To this day it remains a fir plantation, known and shown on Ordnance Survey maps as 'Rand's Plantation', now owned by the Ministry of Defence.

The other information we have about John Rand Capron also comes from the Surrey Advertiser. During the parliamentary campaign of 1880 he wrote a letter to the Surrey Advertiser criticising Mr Onslow, the candidate for Guildford. In the letter he mentioned that he had been out of politics for some time.

Crop Circles
The January 2000 edition of Nature carried a reprint of an article first published in 29 July 1880, in which amateur scientist John Rand Capron reported his investigation into some circles found in a crop field near Guildford in Surrey. Capron's letter described how:

"The storms about this part of Surrey have been lately local and violent, and the effects produced in some instances curious. Visiting a neighbour's farm on Wednesday evening (21st), we found a field of standing wheat considerably knocked about, not as an entirety, but in patches forming, as viewed from a distance, circular spots.

Examined more closely, these all presented much the same character, viz., a few standing stalks as a center, some prostrate stalks with their heads arranged pretty evenly in a direction forming a circle round the center, and outside these a circular wall of stalks which had not suffered,

I sent a sketch made on the spot, giving an idea of the most perfect of these patches. The soil is a sandy loam upon the greensand, and the crop is vigorous, with strong stems, and I could not trace locally any circumstances accounting for the peculiar forms of the patches in the field, nor indicating whether it was wind or rain, or both combined, which had caused them, beyond the general evidence everywhere of heavy rainfall. They were suggestive to me of some cyclonic wind action, and may perhaps have been noticed elsewhere by some of your readers."

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
Early voyagers to the Polar Regions often saw the northern lights, a remarkable luminous display that some considered to be mists emanating from the earth. Capron was one of the first scientists to discuss the chemical and physical nature of the phenomenon. By the 1950s, it was accepted that the northern lights are caused by the interaction of high-energy electrons from the Sun with atoms in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

John Rand Capron also published works with many photographs of spectrographs of metals and gasses.

Thanks to Paul Fuller and Gijs de Leeuw of The Netherlands for help with this article.

Wikipedia links
John Rand Capron
Crop circle
Aurora Borealis
Books by John Rand Capron
Photographed spectra (1877) Internet Archive
Aurorae: their characters and spectra (1879) Internet Archive
A plea for the rainband and the rainband vindicated (1886) Internet Archive

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