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Royal Observatory Timeline

1741

Colin MacLaurin (1698-1746), Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh University secures funding for an Observatory

1745

MacLaurin travels to York to escape the Jacobite Rebellion but is injured falling from his horse

1746

The Jacobite Rebellion ends and MacLaurin returns to Edinburgh. But he dies soon afterwards, suspected to be the result of his fall the previous year

1776

Thomas Short (?-1788), an Optician, acquires the MacLaurin funds and a 99 year lease on part of Calton Hill on which to build an observatory

1776

James Craig (1739-1795), architect of the New Town, draws up a plan for the observatory - a building that is now "Observatory House" and which is situated in the south west corner of the enclosure on Calton Hill

1811

The Astronomical Institution of Edinburgh is formed - pre-dating the Royal Astronomical Society in England by some 9 years

1812

John Playfair (1748-1819), Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University, becomes the first president of the newly formed Astronomical Institute of Edinburgh

1818

William Henry Playfair (1790-1857) - nephew of John Playfair - prepares the design for the new City Observatory on Calton Hill and building is started

1820

The building is completed - albeit there is difficulty finalising the dome.

1822

King George IV visits Edinburgh and names it as the "Royal Observatory of King George IV".

1827

William Henry Playfair draws up the plan for the enclosure walls

1828

The building of the enclosure walls is complete

1830

Captain Wauchope proposes that a time ball be set up on a flagstaff on the Calton Hill.

1830

It was not until the 1830's that enough funding is put together to provide instruments for the observatory

1831

The Transit Telescope is commissioned. Its objective lens was made by Joseph von Fraunhofer, the leading optical manufacturer of the time and discoverer of "Fraunhofer Lines" in the Sun's spectrum. This telescope is still in place today

1834

The Mural Circle is finally delivered by Troughton & Simms and installed

1834

Thomas Henderson (1798-1844) is appointed as the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland

1844

Thomas Henderson dies, having made over 60,000 positional stellar observations

1846

Charles Piazzi Smyth is appointed the second Astronomer Royal for Scotland

1852-4

Piazzi Smyth presides over the inception of the Time Ball on the Nelson Monument

1856

Piazzi Smyth performs an experiment to prove that an astronomical observatory can obtain much better imagery by being placed at altitude. He compares observations made on Calton Hill with those made 10,700 ft in height on a mountain in Teneriffe. Isaac Newton promulgated this theory in 1704.

1861

Piazzi Smyth presides over the inception of Edinburgh's One o'Clock Gun

1888

Charles Piazzi Smyth resigns as Astronomer Royal for Scotland. Lack of funding was one of the prime reasons

1896

A new "Royal Observatory of Edinburgh" is opened up on Blackford Hill and the Calton Hill observatory is renamed as the "City Observatory".