Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Saturday December 22, 1894

The broken Astrographic Dome in the courtyard of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. RGO 7/29 Chief Assistant's Journal, reproduced by kind permission of the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.
The shutter of the Astrographic Dome was blown off into the court at 11h 32m/ The wind was blowing 50 miles per hr, the pressure was 30 lbs per sq. ft. The head-piece of the dome fell inside, just missing Mr Davidson, who was printing reticles. The falling shutter struck the roof of the T.C. room breaking a few tiles and coping of the N.W. of the roof. It then fell on to the porch leading into the T.C. room, breaking one pane; it bent the corrugated iron covering in the front court & fell into the court. Niblett & Woodman at once covered the instrument with light tarpaulin, while Simmons procured some heavy tarpaulin from Messrs Mowlem & Co. Six of their men, who were engaged on the building of the New Altazimuth with Cross & Barnard firmly lashed this over the opening.

Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant
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RH says..... Oh dear, disaster strikes again just as Christie has left for his holidays. What is great about this is that not only do we have a photograph recording the incident, but that Dyson tells us that the falling piece of shutter nearly hit Davidson, one of the Observatory's human computers. It's just as well that it missed as this is the very same Davidson who went on to become an Assistant and to head the famous eclipse expedition to Sobral in 1919 at the same time as Arthur Eddington was in Principe, in an attempt to provide observational proof of Einstein's theory of relativity. Eddington, who had been a vocal supporter of Einstein, and Dyson, who had suggested the idea and organised the whole, generally get the credit for this work, but it was the photographs taken in Sobral under Davidson that provided the usable data. Davidson, Eddington and Dyson were co-authors of the 1920 paper on their results.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Friday December 21, 1894

Went to Wightwick, Wolverhampton for Xmas.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... Merry Christmas Will! I'm not sure what the Wolverhampton connection was, although Wikipedia describes it as "an extremely pleasant part of the more traditionally affluent western side of Wolverhampton". Wightwick is known for both Wightwick Manor, built 1887 and extended 1893, and Wightwick Hall. The former was owned by the Mander family, central to the industrial and business expansion of Wolverhampton. I can't find any obvious link between Christie and Theodore Mander (1853–1900), or his cousin Sir Charles Tertius Mander (1852-1929), who would seem to be his nearest contemporaries.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Wednesday December 19, 1894

Mr Crisp called to discuss new Altaz dome



William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... This image shows the dome of the Altazimuth Pavilion today, although it no longer contains Christie's altazimuth telescope, the Universal Transit Circle. The building wasn't completed until 1899 and the weathervane was only put up in 1901. It shows Halley's Comet as depicated in the Bayeux Tapestry, in rememberance of Edmond Halley, the second astronomer royal, and in anticipation of the 1909/10 return of the comet.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Saturday December 15, 1894

Plan of the Observatory in the Present Day, in E. Walter Maunder, 'The Royal Observatory, Greenwich: a Glance at its History and Work' (1900), based on ADmiralty lithographic plan.Mr Jordan Supert of Greenwich Park came down about proposed modification to R.O. Boundary. Gave him a litho. plan of R.O. showing modifications proposed including enclosure for Magnetic Pavilion E. side of Blackheath Avenue.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

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RH says..... Liographic plans of the Observatory's site seem to have been produced from time to time, on behalf of the Admiralty's Department of Works. The proposed new enclosure is what became the Christie Enclosure, about 320 meters east of Flamsteed House, which was initially home to the Magnet Pavillion but in the 1930s had buildings containing the reversible transit circle, Cookson zenith telescope and Yapp 36-inch telescope.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Friday December 14, 1894

L1150-015 Lantern Slide, showing the form of a 'typical sunspot' by Langley, c.1880s © NMMR.A.S. meeting. Eclipse Comee 2.30, Photo. Comee 3.15, Council 4-6.15.
Mr Crisp came down to arrange about roof & dome of Altaz. building.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

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RH says..... The RAS council meeting included a contribution by Frederick Howlett, a rector and astronomer dedicated to the study of sunspots. This caught my eye as I have recently been looking at the history of solar observation for a display called 'Solar Story' opening at the ROG in January. This will coincide with a new planetarium show, Secrets of the Sun, and the ROG's contribution to a citizen science project working with the data of the STEREO mission. It is a good opportunity to highlight the work of Maunder and the observatory's magnetic department.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Wednesday December 11, 1894

Mr Crisp came down to discuss new buildings.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Monday December 9, 1894

Went to Troughton & Simms about Astrographic micrometer, Posn mic. of 28in telescope, new Altazimuth &c. Mr Simms gave me a specimen of Mantics’[?] ordinary dense flint (very transparent) for new photo-spectroscope.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Friday November 30, 1894

Flamseted House, Royal Observatory, Greenwich, from the west after 1910 © NMMCol. Wheatley (Bailiff of Parks) called with Mr Jordan (Supert Greenwich Park) with reference to improvement of west boundary of Obsy from point of view of Park. He proposed to access[?] portion of garden between existing fence & west wall of Lawn & west side of garden house. I told him that questions of modification of boundary should be considered as a whole & explained to him the modification I should propose round Physical Obsy and on east side. It was understood that he would raise the question of the alteration of west fence.

Sir H. Thompson dined with me at R.S. anniversary dinner.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal


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Dr Dyson made an observation of the Sun’s Transit across two plumb lines to determine the Meridian line of the New Altazimuth. The result agreed closely with the line obtained by Mr Nash by Magnetic Observations. The two plumb lines were 37ft apart. The Centre of the Sun & the second limb crossed the line 5s too soon: giving an error of 2s. Mr Nash’s line was compared with Col: Tupman’s & agreed well.

Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant
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RH says..... Christie's plans for the Physical Observatory had always required that a small parcel of land from the Royal Park be brought within the Royal Observatory's boundary. His tagging of this issue onto the question of improving the western boundary around Flamsteed House is decidedly sneaky.
30 November, St Andrew's Day, is the anniversary of the Royal Society's foundation in 1660: 2010 (or technically 1 December 2009 to 30 November 2010) will be a celebration of the Society's 350th anniversary.
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Lieutenant Colonel Tupman, mentioned by Dyson, had had a connection with the Royal Observatory in 1874, having organised one of the transit of Venus observing expeditions, but archives from the Observatory in Cambridge show that he continued observing at Hillfoot Observatory in Harrow.


Friday, 4 December 2009

Thursday November 29, 1894

Meeting of Ratcliffe Trustees[?] at 9 a.m.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... This entry is rather illegible, but my reading suggests that this relates to a meeting of the managers of the Oxford Radcliffe Observatory.

Wednesday November 28, 1894

Meeting of Blue Coat Trustees at 5.30

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... The Blue Coat charity was founded to provide schooling to poor children, who would wear the eponymous blue coats to school. The meeting that Christie attended probably related to the Greenwich Blue Coat School, now incorporated into the Blackheath Bluecoat School.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Monday November 26, 1894

Mr Crisp came down & discussed various questions about the new buildings.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Tuesday November 20, 1894

ALtazimuth, designed by George Airy, from Leisure Hour 1898.Three wires of Altazimuth reported broken by Mr Bryant. The plate holding them was sent to Messrs Troughton & Simms.

The position wires of the 28in Micrometer reported broken, by Mr Lewis. Mr Niblett told to repair them.


Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant

Monday November 19, 1894

Meeting of Sub Comee for Photographic Exhibn at Imperial Institute 3.30.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Sunday November 18, 1894

A gentleman named Mr Holmes fell down in a fit just outside the Observatory at 10 [o]’clock. He was carried into the Chief Assistant’s room, and attended to by his wife & sister. As the Astronomer Royal was away, Mr Dyson obtained what help he could from the Astronomer Royal’s house. Mr Johns was sent for Dr _______who stayed with the man till be could be moved at 3 o’clock.

Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Friday November 16, 1894

Went to Sandwich in the evening returning Monday morning Nov 19

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Thursday November 15, 1894

Dr Doberck here computing some old comet obsns in library.
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William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... This was the Dr Doberck who had called on 3 October to complain about his colleague in Hong Kong. He was best known as a double-star observer but this work on comets may have helped satisfy his frustrated desire to do research. He was, presumably, working in the 'New Library', designed at the end of George Airy's tenure as Astronomer Royal and completed under Christie. This photograph, taken before the Physical Observatory was completed and before work on the Altazimuth Pavilion started, shows the library on the right-hand side, with Flamsteed House and the dome of the 28-inch telescope in the background and the hut, offices and equipment of the Magnetic and Meteorological department and the top of the Lassell Dome in the foreground.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Wednesday November 14, 1894

Annual Meeting of Charity Organisation Socy in Octagon Room at 4.30. About 70 present. Very wet day, keeping many people away.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... This clearly demonstrates how the Octagon Room - Flamsteed's Great Star Chamber - was so often used in the 19th century. 70 people seems a fair amount to fit into this room (these days public talks there are limited to 50-60) so it must have been a real squeeze at an event like this on a fine day. I can certainly vouch for the fact that a wet day in Greenwich Park keeps a large proportion of potential visitors to the ROG at home.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Friday November 9, 1894

R.A.S. Comee & Council meeting beginning at 2.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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Mr Swasey called – Gas failed. Mr Simmonds turned it off in the Chronometer room.
Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant
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RH says..... The report of the RAS Council meeting can be found here. The meeting included a paper by Rev W. Sidgreaves on 'Solar Observations at Stonyhurst College Observatory', prompting a discussion on spectroscopic observations of sunspots and a long response from E. Walter Maunder, the head of the Royal Observatory's solar observation programme. There is also mention of Thomas Lewis's observations of a binary star with the 28-inch telescope. Responding to this, Maunder said that Lewis's observation was "a testimony to his skill and keenness of sight as a double-star observer; and it may also be regarded as satisfactory as showing the defining-power of the new refractor at Greenwich." In support of this point he added that on the previous Monday night he had observed Mars's satellites with it: "There was not the smallest difficulty in seeing and measuring" them.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Thursday November 8, 1894

Meeting of Comee of Advice for Imperial Institute Photographic Exhibition.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal



RH says..... I came across this image on the internet the other day: I'm not sure if this is how Christie travelled to Sandwich on his holidays, but it would certainly be handy for him.


Sandwich train at Greenwich Station, c.1910.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Monday November 5, 1894



H0632 Ivory medallion of Flamsteed by Le Marchand, copyright National Maritime Museum.Mr J. Raymond Smith Sculptor called to arrange about bust of Flamsteed for N. wing of Physical Observatory and took away ivory medallion & engraved portrait of Flamsteed on loan.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal



Rate of S.S. altered.
Reversion-Prism eyepiece, which had been broken sent to Messrs Troughton & Simms.


Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant




RH says..... This image shows the medallion of Flamsteed that Christie sent the sculptor for reference, although the scultpure on the Physical Observatory probably owes more to the engraving, which can be see in this post. The completed bust can still be seen above the entrance of the Observatory's South Building today.




Monday, 2 November 2009

Wednesday October 31, 1894

George Darwin: astronomer, mathematician and son of Charles Darwin (1845-1912)Meeting of Index Catalogue Comee (Astronomy). Prof. G. H. Darwin & I attended & we drew up a brief Report.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Friday, 30 October 2009

Tuesday October 30, 1894

Discussed with Mr Skinner (from Messrs Troughton & Simms) plans for new Astrographic micrometer and for Photographic spectroscope.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... On another topic, Graham Dolan has kindly send me an image of the Great Equatorial Building's balcony under construction - see entry for 19 October. He tells me that this picture can be dated to the summer of 1898, so it seems that it took some time to do the work. It is always interesting to see in these old images that, although the Observatory was closed to the public, it was still a sight for visitors to Greenwich Park - even if they were chiefly there for the view down to the river that the people on the benches at the right of the picture are enjoying.
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The balcony of the Great Equatorial Building of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, under construction, 1898, copyright Graham Dolan.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Wednesday October 24 to Sunday October 28, 1894

Went to Deal returning on Sunday evening.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Monday October 22, 1894

Work on new Buildings (Altazimuth Pavilion) & Physical Obsy (N. wing &c.) commenced.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... At last! Although both buildings still had a long way to go before completion - the Physical Observatory, in particular, for which funding was only secured piecemeal, wing by wing. Building works, of course, had been almost a constant throughout the history of the Observatory.
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Coincidentally, today, 22 October 2009, marks the 125th anniversary of the vote held at the international conference in Washington, D.C., that selected the Greenwich meridian as the Prime Meridian of the world. That vote, however, only led to recommendations being passed on to the 25 governments that sent delegates, only one of which (Japan) acted. In 1894, 10 years after the conference, Christie was still working on a Committee of the Science and Art Department to see how the Washington recommendations could be adopted.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Friday October 19, 1894

Postcard of Royal Observatory, Greenwich, c.1906.Mr Crisp & Mr Loughborough with Mr Awdry discussed the above. Also discussed, with Mr Crisp proposed Magnetic Pavilion in the Park and balcony below 36ft Dome.

Discussed with Mr Simms plans for new Astrographic micrometer & Photographic spectroscope.



William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... The 36-foot dome was the new onion-shaped dome that accommodated the larger 28-inch telescope instead of the Great Equatorial telescope that the building had originally contained. This postcard clearly shows the balcony that Christie discussed today.
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Magnetic Pavilion in the Christie Enclosure from E. Walter Maunder, 'The Royal Observatory, Greenwich: a Glance at its History and Work' (1900).
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The Magnetic House at this time was still where it had been since the 1840s - in the south part of the Royal Observatory's site, but north of the New Physical Observatory. This area today is covered by the dome of the Peter Harrison Planetarium. Despite Christie performing apparently satisfactory experiments to test the effect of ironwork in the new buildings on the magnetic observations, it had obviously become clear that the would have to be performed away from the main site. The picture below shows the new Magnetic Pavilion, built in 1899, in the area of Greenwich Park that became known as the Christie Enclosure. This area, 350 yards east from the main site, once held several telescope domes, including that of the Yapp 36-inch telescope, as well as the Magnetic Pavilion and Magnetograph House. It was all dismantled and returned to the Park when the Observatory moved to Herstmonceux and the Greenwich site became part of the National Maritime Museum.

Wednesday October 17, 1894

Called at Director of Works’ Department and arranged for Mr Crisp to come down to settle various matters in connection with the new buildings to be commenced next Monday.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Monday October 15, 1894

Dined with Clockmakers’ Co in evening returning thanks for the Livery. Met Mr Buckney & had conversation with him about timeball at Sheerness, chronometers &c.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Friday October 12, 1894

Sir H. Grubb discussed plans of 26in Photo-Equatorial & specification for new Altaz dome.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Monday, 12 October 2009

Wednesday October 10, 1894

Arranged for light hinged cover to 28in O.G. as suggested by Mr Lewis.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... It is interesting to see Thomas Lewis, whose official responsibility was the Time Department, being involved with the 28-inch telescope in this way. Under the previous Astronomer Royal, George Airy, staff seem to have been discouraged from taking an interest in instruments and activities outside their remit.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Tuesday October 9, 1894

Received a positive & negative eyepiece for 28 Inch ordered July 24 from Messrs Troughton & Simms.

Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Monday October 8, 1894

Charles Pritchard (1808-1893), from the frontispiece of the biography by his daughter Ada Pritchard.
Miss Pritchard called with reference to a biography of Prof. Pritchard.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... William Prichard, the former Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, had died the previous year. Christie's previous Chief Assistant, H.H. Turner, had succeeded to the chair. Ada Pritchard, his daughter, published Charles Pritchard, D.D., Memoirs of his Life in 1897, which included an account of his theological worky, by the Bishop of Worcester and an account of his astronomical work by Turner. The book shows that Ada spent some time looking through the manuscript records of the Observatory, now held at Cambridge University Library.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Friday October 5, 1894

William Abney (1843-1920).
Saw Gen. Donnelly at S. & A. Department. Also Capt. Abney with reference to absorption of glass in ultraviolet part of spectrum. He advised use of Feils’ medium flint for photo. Spectroscope and large prisms adapted to a collimator of 2½ inches aperture.



William Christie, Astronomer Royal

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RH says..... Sir John Fretchville Dykes Donnelly was, as this book suggests, "the very model of a modern Major-General", seeing active army service in the Crimea before focusing the rest of his career on scientific education within the Department of Science and Art at South Kensington. Through this he supervised science teaching not only in schools throughout the country, but also within many important higher education institutions. He had been educated at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, when Christie's father Samuel Hunter Christie was professor of mathematics.

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The other meeting was with the equally wonderfully-named Sir William de Wiveleslie Abney (1843-1920), a chemist, astronomer and photographer who was a fellow and president of the Royal Astronomical Society. See his obituary here. He had first come to astronomy, at to Greenwich, through his involvement in supervising the photography associated with the 1874 transit of Venus expeditions.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Thursday October 4, 1894

Went to Troughton & Simms about new Astrographic micrometer & new spectroscope. Found nothing had been done in preparing working drawings.
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William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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Diaphragm of the Astrographic Micrometer sent to Troughton & Simms to be rouged, as the divisions were very difficult to see against the photographs.
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Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Wednesday October 3, 1894

William Doberck (18520-1941)Dr Doberck Director of Hong Kong Obsy called & aired his grievances in regard to Mr& Mrs Plummer, Comee on Photographic Exhbition 1895 at Imperial Institute at 4.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... William Doberck, according to a recent article, was a "combatative and prickly personality", frustrated in his desire to do astronomical research by his role in an institution founded as a meteorological and magnetic observatory and time service.

The Plummer referred to here is not the one who visted in January and April. This was John Isaac Plummer who was working for Doberck in Hong Kong after working for brief periods in the Cambridge, Greenwich, Glasgow, Durham and Orwell Park Observatories - see this site for more information on Plummer and his problematic relationship with Doberck: already in 1891 Doberck was complaining that "
Mr Plummer has turned out to be a most incompetent man, no friend of science in general and a particular enemy of this observatory. He has been very troublesome and his conduct has been ungentlemanly", although he had been warmly recommended by some of his previous employers. This account is also revealing of Christie's role in such staffing matters across the empire. Although the falling-out between Dorberck and Plummer was nearly disasterous, they seem to have overcome their differences in the end, working relatively harmoniously in Hong Kong until 1907 and 1911 respectively.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Tuesday October 2, 1894

Dr Doberck of Hong Kong Observatory called to see the Astronomer Royal.

Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Thursday September 27, 1894

Cleaned outside surface of 28in O.G. Adjustment of spectroscope in the evening.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Monday September 24, 1894

Went to Troughton & Simms with Mr Dyson and arranged with Mr Simms for a new Astrographic micrometer for measuring two plates at same time and for a Photographic spectroscope. Also gave Mr Simms a paper for positions of stops in new altazimuth to give a series of adopted azimuths.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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Went with the Astronomer Royal to Troughton & Simms’ works. Mr Simms & the Astronomer Royal discussed photographic spectroscope especially the kinds of glass obtainable, & the Micrometer for the Astrographic measures.
Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Thursday September 13, 1894

Saw Director of Works at Admiralty & Mr Crisp about new buildings. Received from Mr Simms small reflecting prism for spectroscope on 28in telescope.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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Half-inch prism for spectroscope of 28 Inch arrived from Troughton & Simms.


Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Wednesday September 12, 1894

Went to Troughton and Simms’ about alteration of microscope of Astrographic micrometers & Posn microm. of 28in telescope. Saw the new Astrographic micrometer made for Prof. Turner.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal

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RH says..... Christie is straight back to business after his long holiday. It is nice to see his interest in the instrumentation ordered by Turner, his former Chief Assistant, in his new role as director of the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Friday August 31, 1894

Micrometer for measuring Stellar Photographs returned from Troughton & Simms.

Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant
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RH says..... From its placement in the journal it looks as if this entry was made retrospectively, perhaps when the boss came back from his holiday?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Thursday September 6, 1894

Dr Benjamin Apthorp Gould (1824-1896).
Dr B.A. Gould called.


Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant
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Benjamin Apthorp Gould was an American astronomer who had been in charge of the longitude department of the United States Coast Survey before becoming director of first the Dudley Observatory in Albany, NY, and then the Argentine National Observatory until 1885. At this date he was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Tuesday August 21, 1894

AST0800 Eye-piece for a measuring micrometer head, signed Troughton & Simms, c. 1850 © NMMA man called from Messrs Troughton & Simms about the Position of the 28 Inch Micrometer. I shewed him the method of illumination used in the Astrographic Telescope. He had been unable to obtain a dark field and illuminated wires in the way suggested by the Astronomer Royal, and wished to use some prisms to reflect the light. Mr Lewis & I discussed the matter with him and agreed that Mr Simms should do it as he liked & alter it subsequently, if necessary.


Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Monday August 20, 1894

Mr Crisp called wanting to know whether Cooke’s tender for removing & remounting Lassell dome included the race. I shewed him the papers on the subject, but we found no definite statement whether this was included in the term “dome”. He explained that he intended to insert words like “including the race” in accepting the tender.

Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant
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RH says..... I am not sure what the "race" of the dome is, and may well have mis-read it. All suggestions welcome!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Thursday August 9 to Monday September 10, 1894

Went away on leave this evening to Jersey & Guernsey returning on evening of Monday Sept 10.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... This, of course, means a gap in the Astronomer Royal's journal. Dyson was in charge of the observatory again but he does not seem to have been particularly assiduous in filling in his journal. I will be back briefly for a couple of entries on 20th and 21st August, but otherwise will see you in September.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Thursday August 9, 1894

Mr Cowdry came as Foreman of Works to superintend work on the new buildings.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Monday, 10 August 2009

Wednesday August 8, 1894

Mr Fowler came to practise with Transit C, preparation for work of determining longitudes in the settlement of boundary between Dahomey and

Frank Dyson, Chief Assistant
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RH says..... This entry ends with a blank, which Dyson presumably intended to fill in later when he could remember the name of the other end of this west African boundary. The settlement of borders was presumably as a result of the end of the 1892-94 Second Franco-Dahomean War.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Tuesday August 7, 1894

Saw Assist. Director of Works & Mr Crisp at Admy about plans for new Altaz. Building.

Mr G.F. Millin of the Daily news came to enquire about progress of new Altazimuth & other works.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... Plans and designs for the new building works still rumble on, and clearly were of interest to the press. This journalist was George F. Millin and, according to one of his books, Life in Our Villages (1891), he was the Special Commissioner of the Daily News. He is also described in the catalogue of the National Archives as "a Liberal propagandist for social causes".
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This visit resulted in an article in the Daily News on 23 August 1894 which is very supportive of Christie's attempts to modernise the ROG. It begins "Greenwich Observatory, which at one time was rather discreditably behind several other similar establishments in different parts of the world, is rapidly moving to the front. Mr Christie seems determined that Greenwich shall take its proper place in the front rank, if not in the actual load, in the astronomical world...". Millin approved of the (eventual) willingness of the Admiralty and Treasury to fund the new buildings and instruments and believed that the ROG"little by little is really becoming a splendidly equipped institution" and that they would "make Greenwich Observatory somewhat worthier of its fame, not only in point of efficiency, but in appearance and as a great public institution".

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Saturday August 4, 1894

Sir Howard Grubb discussed mounting of 26in Thompson photo-equatorial. It was arranged that the 30in reflector should be mounted on other end of decn axis with its axis 6ft from centre.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... These telescopes were the ones being paid for by Sir Henry Thompson to be mounted in the re-sited Lassell dome atop the New Physical Observatory. The 30-inch has now evidentally entered the equation, and the scheme has come a long way since Christie referred to the "proposed" 26-inch telescope back in April.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Friday August 3, 1894

Lassell Dome, 1884-c.1896Mr Wrigglesworth & Mr Taylor from T. Cooke & Sons came with reference to estimates for new Altaz. Dome & moving & reerecting Lassell dome.

Willilam Christie, Astronomer Royal

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RH says..... The instrument-making firm Thomas Cooke and Sons built both the Lassell and altazimuth domes at Greenwich. The former (pictured) was reused to surmount the New Physical Observatory.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Thursday August 2, 1894

Mr A.G. Fowler came with reference to boundary commission between French & English territory in W. Africa. Advised him to get a Transit instrument similar to that used by Capt Grant for moon culminating method.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... The transit instrument in question was made by Troughton & Simms, and the moon culminating method was used on Christie's advice on this occasion too - the survey of the Anglo-Portuguese boundary in eastern Africa in 1892.


Wednesday August 1, 1894

Henri-Alexandre Deslandres (1853-1948), of Paris Observatory.Mr Deslandres & Comte de la Baume Pluvinel came to see the Observatory and M. Deslandres showed some of his photographs of solar chromosphere (faculæ). M. Pluvinel left two positives of the Eclipse of 1893 at Joal.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal

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RH says..... Deslandres and the Comte de la Baume Pluvinel were well-known figures in French astronomy, working on spectroscopy and photography. In previous decades it was felt that there was little place for these novelties in established national observatories such as Greenwich and Paris and alternative sites were set up, including the Solar Physics Observatory in South Kensington (1878) and Meudon Observatory outside Paris (1875). But it's clear that these were areas in which Christie hope to enhance the reputation of Greenwich, as his New Physical Observatory attests.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Monday July 30, 1894

Arranged mounting of reflecting prism for spectroscope on adapter carried by telescope. This work was put in hand by Niblett.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... The spectroscope used on the 28-inch telescope was designed by Christie, though as we see here it was the indispensable Niblett who undertook the practical work. The spectroscope can be seen in use in the photograph if you click on the link above.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Saturday July 28, 1894

Tried adjustment of Spectroscope on 28in telescope and altered posn of Spectroscope collimator as the axis of pencil from O.G. was not reflected along collr axis.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Friday July 27, 1894

Dinner of British Institute of Public Health at Lincoln’s Inn. Proposed toast of “Sanitary & other Statutory Authorities”.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal


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H says..... The BIPH was soon to receive its charter, becoming the Royal Institute of Public Health in 1897.

Wednesday July 25, 1894

Sir A. N. Wollaston. Mr A.N. Wollaston (Assist Secy India Office) called to enquire about the Photoheliograph for India. I mentioned to him the difficulties about arranging for meetings of Indian Obsy Comee & proposed that there should be a fixed date for the meeting & that a clerk from India Office should act as Secy. Letters were written to him subsequently to this effect.



William Christie, Astronomer Royal




RH says..... Christie arranged for identical photoheliograph telescopes to be used in India and Mauritius to fill in gaps of the Greenwich series of sunspot photographs caused by cloudy weather. The Indian Observatory Committee of the Royal Society and Royal Astronomical Society had been set up in 1885 to monitor the efficiency of the Bombay and Madras observatories. In 1897 it was merged with the Observatories Committee.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Monday July 23, 1894

Went to Troughton & Simms’ in afternoon & arranged about alterations to astrographic micrometer & to position circle micrometer for 28 inch telescope. Ordered a new positive & a new negative eyepiece for 28in telescope power 1000. Inspected new altazimuth, the telescope, axis & circles being mounted in position. Approved of patterns for mounting of collimators. During my absence Minifie the labourer fell from a tree in the garden, from a height of about 25 feet. He fell on his back but, though much shaken, was not seriously injured. He was cutting off a branch which interfered with the sunshine register.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... Poor Minifie: a near-martyr of meteorological science.

Friday July 20, 1894

Meeting of Boreman Governors at Greenwich at 1. Dinner & reception at Imperial Institute to commemorate 25th anniversary of telegraphic communication to the far East.The astrographic micrometer taken away by Mr Simms for adaptation of a new millimetre scale, position circle & clamp to plate carrier, and focussing adjustment to microm. microscope.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... Christie's meeting was of the charitable Boreman Foundation, named after Sir William Boreman who, in the 17th century, bequeathed a school in Greenwich and various to the Drapers' Company. The William Boreman Nautical School was absorbed into the Greenwich Hospital School in 1886 but the charity continued (and still continues) to provide scholarships and other financial assistance.
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The Imperial Institute, later the Commonwealth Institute, was founded in 1887 to carry out scientific research that supported agricultural, industrial and commercial development of the colonies and dominions. In 1894 the Institute had just moved into its new buildings in South Kensington. All that survives is Queen's Tower, now part of Imperial College.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Thursday July 19, 1894

Meeting of Jubilee Almshouses Trustees at 5.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... With apologies for current delays in posting, due to illness and/or conferences.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Friday July 13, 1894

Went to Sandwich this evening returning Monday evening July 16.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Thursday July 12, 1894

La Marguerite, image from http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/LaMarguerite.html#anchor71591Went to Boulogne & back by sea from Tilbury in La Marguerite on the invitation of Sir W. Pearce.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal



RH says..... All this sounds like a jolly day out, though as the details appear in the journal it is probable that Christie was a guest in his official capacity. I presume that this is Sir William George Pearce (1861-1907), son of Sir William Pearce the Clydesdale shipbuilder. At this time, Pearce junior was MP for Plymouth and had just about run his father's company, the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, into the ground (he hired a general manager in 1894 who revived its fortunes). La Marguerite was a paddle steamer built and owned by this company, and was undergoing trials this year. It was one of three designed as excursion ships on the River Thames, and La Marguerite sailed to Margate and Boulogne for ten years.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Monday July 9, 1894

Five pupils from the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich, c.1900.Went to distribution of Prizes at Greenwich Hospital School by the Prince of Wales at noon.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says.... Officially renamed the Royal Hospital School in 1892, this institution occupied the buildings that now house the National Maritime Museum. Originally an institution that provided for the children of the Naval pensioners at the neighbouring Royal Hospital for Seamen, from the 1840s to the 1930s it trained boys with a seafaring background for service in the Royal Navy. Its provision of scientific and mathematical training was particularly notable and there was an observatory in the school grounds. This, through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, had been provided with instruments from the brief-lived St Helena Observatory (1828-1835). The Prince of Wales was Queen Victoria's son and the future Edward VII.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Friday July 6, 1894

Went to Sandwich this evening returning Sunday evening July 8

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Thursday July 5, 1894

Mr Maunder having pointed 28in telescope on the Sun to adjust the spectroscope the plane mirror for diagonal view cracked in three pieces.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal
RH says.... This was the half-mirror spectroscope designed by Christie himself - if you click on the 28-inch link above you will see a photograph of Maunder using it.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Tuesday July 3, 1894

Ladies’ dinner of Drapers’ Company. Royal Academy soirée.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Saturday June 30, 1894

Released the three clips pressing down crown lens of 28in O.G. as there was some suspicion of strain and put double thickness of blotting paper in addition to the cartridge paper under each.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Monday, 29 June 2009

Friday June 29, 1894

The Chronometer Room, from E. Walter Maunder, 'The Royal Observatory, Greenwich: a Glance at its History and Work' (1900)Capt. Tizard & Mr Sadler came down for annual stocktaking of chrons & deckwatches. All found right.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal



RH says..... As described in an earlier post, the testing of chronometers took up a great deal of staff time. It was work done directly for the Royal Navy which, since the Observatory was also run by the Admiralty, they were not in a position to refuse - although they did use it as a bargaining point. This illustration shows the Observatory's Chronometer Room, where the rate of the instruments was checked - i.e. their regular running, whether fast or slow. Another room included an oven in order to check their performance under hot conditions. This room, in the Great Equatorial Building that houses the 28-inch telescope, is now the office of the National Maritime Museum's Curator of Horology.
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Captain Tizard, mentioned in this entry, was Assistant Hydrographer of the Navy and had been made a Fellow of the Royal Society on the strength of his work and publications on hydrographic surveying. Most importantly he had commanded HMS Challenger during its important scientific expedition of 1872-76 and, over the next three years, had written the narrative of the voyage. The NMM's archive holds some lovely sketches by Tizard of his shipmates aboard Challenger.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Capt. Close R.N. discussed plans for a timeball at Chatham. Anniversary dinner of R.S. Club.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal


RH says..... The Royal Observatory's time ball was installed in 1833 in order to give a visual time signal to ships on the Thames. This allowed them to check the chronometers they used - along with the astronomical lunar distance method - to find their longitude at see. The mechanism still works: the ball rising half-way up the pole at 12.55, to the top at 12.58 and dropping at 1pm. With the arrival of telegraphic time signals from Greenwich in the mid 19th century, other time balls were set up at various ports, including Deal, Southampton, Chatham and Falmouth. The archives in Cambridge show that these prompted much correspondence for Christie.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Wednesday June 27, 1894

Attending meeting of Catalogue Sub Comee for Astronomy at R.S. 4 p.m.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal


RH says..... The International Catalogue of Scientific Literature was issued by the Royal Society in annual volumes from 1902 to 1916 - several of these volumes can be seen at Internet Archive. Three conferences held in London in 1896, 1898 and 1900 had established it as an international endeavour, with Bureau dedicated to its production all over the world. That in the US, for example, was based at the Smithsonian.


Thursday, 25 June 2009

A June Wedding

Frank Dyson in 1894 - detail of Royal Observatory Hockey Club 1893-94 photograph, © National Maritime Museum.RH says..... There is a long silence in the Chief Assistant's diary over summer 1894 as Frank Dyson was on his honeymoon. He married Caroline Bisset Best, better known as Carrie, on 20 June. It was to be a happy marriage, producing eight children - all of whom would later live in Flamsteed House when Frank became Astronomer Royal. In The Ninth Astronomer Royal, Dyson's daughter Margaret wrote: “Carrie was dressed in grey. She had two bridesmaids... The wedding was a quiet one, no guests having been invited except the two families and a few intimate friends.” The ceremony was performed by the groom's father, Rev Watson Dyson, at the Baptist Chapel in Carrie's home town, Louth, Lincolnshire.

The honeymoon was spent in Switzerland and "For a month Frank and Carrie walked and climbed", Carrie apparently impressing other guests with her prowess. In the evenings they read poetry aloud - apparently Frank was an admirer of Browning.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Friday June 22, 1894

Mr Crisp called to discuss arrangements for the new Buildings.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... The south wing of the Physical Observatory had been completed in April and Christie was hoping to press on with the completion of the dome (to hold the Thompson telescopes) above the central portion (known as the 'Museum', or instrument store) and begin work on the north wing (which would house his own office). Work was also about to start on the Altazimuth Pavilion. Christie did his best to stress to the Admiralty the importance of continuing work, highlighting the need to be ready to receive Thompson's generous gift and the danger that prolonged building work would put Observatory business at risk. At the June Visitation he explained that “A number of the moveable instruments are now being arranged in the glass cases in the Museum, or set up in the South wing as a preliminary to the completion of the inventory, but the work cannot be satisfactorily finished till the North wing is completed, as the building operations greatly hamper the arrangements."

Monday, 22 June 2009

Wednesday June 20, 1894

The astrographic telescope at Greenwich, c.1904 © Science Museum / Science & Society / NMMArranged with Desforges (from Troughton & Simms) for mounting of new glass millimetre scale in Astrographic micrometer.

Dined with Dyers’ Company at the “Ship” returning thanks for the Visitors.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Saturday June 16 to Tuesday June 19, 1894

Went to Broadstairs (for Sandwich) this afternoon returning to the Obsy on Wednesday morning.
William Christie, Astronomer Royal
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RH says..... A bit of rest and relaxation required after the stresses of the Visitation?

Monday, 15 June 2009

Thursday June 14, 1894

Mr Hancock Supet of Telegraphs Western Australia examined arrangements for Earth current registers, which he proposes to start on two long lines of telegraph in Western Australia. Discussed the question with him & suggested that magnetic registers should also be taken. Saw Director of Works & Mr Crisp about new buildings, and also Mr Awdry.



William Christie, Astronomer Royal

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Wednesday June 13, 1894

The uke of York in 1893: the future King George V.
Meeting of Solar Physics Comee at 2.30pm. Trinity House Dinner, Duke of York in the chair.


William Christie, Astronomer Royal


RH says..... The Duke of York, pictured to the left, was the future king of England, George V.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Saturday June 9, 1894

Went on trip to mouth of Thames in H.M.S. “Havock” the new torpedo boat destroyer.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

H4799 Half-block model of HMS Havock, 1893, © NMM.

RH says..... The name of this ship is a little hard to read in the original Journal, but it is probably the HMS Havock, launched on 12 August 1893. This little jaunt of Christie's reminds us again of the link between the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and the Admiralty. The Havock was, apparently, broken up in 1912, largely because of problems with the bow torpedo tube which meant that she could outrun her own torpedos.
The Havock was the first of a new class of ships that were part of the massive five-year ship-building programme launched by the 1889 Naval Defence Act. Given that this allocated £21,500,000 to the Admiralty it is an interesting question whether the several thousands of pounds that Christie was requesting for his building works and telescopes was seen as an insignificant addition to their budgets or yet another burden. While Christie certainly had to work hard to get the money, it was, ultimately, forthcoming. Did the Admiralty and the British government believe that rival powers could be impressed by scientific success as well as military and naval might?