Sunday, 15 February 2009

Thursday February 15, 1894

The Greenwich Park explosion.Went to Sandwich this afternoon, returning Sunday evening. Soon after I left an explosion of a bomb occurred on the zigzag path leading up to N.W. corner of the Observatory, the man who carried it (a French anarchist) being found mortally injured on the path - see detailed reports in D9.

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

A dynamiter anarchist was blown up with his own bomb in Greenwich Park. See special Reports.

H.H. Turner, Chief Assistant

RH says.....
A French anarchist, Martial Bourdin, accidentally set of a bomb that he was carrying through Greenwich Park at 4.45pm on 15 February 1894. An account of events by one of my ROG colleagues can be found here and a flavour of the media storm that the event provoked (which provided inspiration for Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent) is given here. The image accompanying this post, and another fantastic image from the illustrated press here, show the public's fascination in the event. There has been much debate over what Bourdin's target actually was but, given that the "zigzag path" beneath the Observatory is not a main route, it would appear that the Observatory was the intended target. For nearly a decade Greenwich's local meridian had been designated the Prime Meridian for the world, and that the international day began at midnight in Greenwich - perhaps, then, what Greenwich stood for was indeed a tempting target for an anarchist.

The decision regarding the Prime Meridian was made at the International Meridian Conference held in Washington in 1884, the proceedings of which are available online. These show that the French delegates were far from happy about the idea of making Greenwich rather than Paris (or at least a 'neutral' position) home of the Prime Meridian.

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