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Innes, Robert Thorburn Ayton

Born Edinburgh, Scotland, 10 November 1861

Died Surbiton, Surrey, England, 13 March 1933

Scottish-Australian-South African observational astronomer Robert Innes discovered more than 1,600 double (binary) stars; compiled a definitive catalog of double stars discovered from the Southern Hemisphere; and discovered Proxima Centauri, the third, very faint component of the closest star system. He was the eldest of 12 children of John and Elizabeth (née Ayton) Innes, and showed early promise in mathematics, but left school at age 12 on account of practical concerns. Thereafter he was entirely self-taught. In 1884 Innes married Anne Elizabeth Fennell; they had three sons. The couple moved to Sydney, Australia, where Innes was to become a successful wine merchant. Under clear Australian skies his passion for astronomy blossomed. W. F. Gale lent him a Cooke refractor, and he began a search for southern double stars. Innes corresponded with astronomer David Gill,