An Historical Account of Armagh Observatory

J.L.E. Dreyer PhD

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The Armagh Observatory was founded in the year 1791 by Richard Robinson, Baron Rokeby, Archbishop of Armagh, the great benefactor of the city of Armagh. This generous Primate had already, in 1778, founded and endowed a Public Library in Armagh, and during the last years of his life he was anxious to assist in founding an University for Ulster - a project which was, however, not carried out, owing to the restriction of five years within which the University should be founded in order to enjoy the endowment of £5,000 left it by the Primate's will.

The founding of the Observatory was probably connected with this plan of an University, but the Primate was also much influenced by the circumstance of there being in the diocese of Armagh an amateur Astronomer of sufficient energy and experience to take charge of the new institution. The Rev. James Archibald Hamilton, D.D., Rector of Kildress, County Tyrone,{1} was an enthusiastic observer of the heavens, as his observations made at Cookstown, of the transit of the planet Mercury across the Sun in 1782, and other celestial phenomena, could testify.{2} He was accordingly by the Primate appointed the first Astronomer of the observatory on July 8, 1790, and twenty acres of land, situated at the North-eastern outskirts of the City of Armagh (being on the Estate of the See of Armagh), were selected as the site of the buildings and for the use of the Astronomer. On April the 5th, 1791, the Primate vested the management of the institution in the Archbishop, the Dean, and the members of the Chapter of the Cathedral of Armagh for the time being, as ex-officio Governors and Guardians, in whom, together with two co-opted Governors, the Observatory and its endowment was vested for ever. As an endowment for the Astronomer the Primate gave the townland of Derrynaught, in the county of Armagh, and in the same year the Irish Parliament sanctioned this gift and the organization of the Board of Governors by passing "An Act for Settling and Preserving a Public Observatory and Museum in the City of Armagh for ever"{3}. The contents of this Act may be summarized as follows:-

The Observatory, its buildings and grounds, instruments, and other belongings, as also the endowment of land and other property of any kind whatsoever, which might in course of time be given to the institution, are vested in the Governors and Guardians above mentioned, who are created a corporation for receiving all gifts and grants presented to the institution, and for drawing up such rules and regulations for the management thereof as they may think necessary. The power of nominating and appointing the Astronomer is reserved to the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland for the time being, the Board of Governors having the power of suspending or even dismissing the Astronomer in case he should refuse to observe their rules or orders. The appointment of the Astronomer is not valid unless he, at the next meeting of the Board, produces a certificate from the Astronomer Royal of England of his due qualification for the office, and gives to the Governors and Guardians security to the amount of £500 by reocognizance with two sufficient securities, "that none of the several particulars given or bestowed, or hereafter to be given and bestowed on the said Observatory or Museum, shall be lost or otherwise embezzled." He is also required to take an oath before the Primate that he will not suffer any of the said particulars to be lent or embezzled. The Governors are annually on the day preceding or next after the Visitation of the Diocese to visit and inspect the Observatory.

As already mentioned, Primate Robinson gave as an endowment for the Astronomer twenty acres of land close to Armagh, on which the Observatory is built, and the estate of Derrynaught, which he had bought out of his private means. In order to provide for the salary of an Assistant (to be appointed by the Astronomer) and the current expenses of the Observatory, the Primate furthermore endowed the same with a Lease for Twenty one Years of the Rectorial Tithes of the Parish of Carlingford, and of certain lands belonging to the See of Armagh (partly in County Tyrone and partly in County Louth). These leases were renewed every year at a nominal fine, and might practically be regarded as a perpetuity.

Front of Observatory A spacious dwelling house was erected, having a dome 14 feet in diameter, on the middle of the south side, and a transit-room attached to the east. Being on the top of a hill, about a hundred feet over the surrounding country, there is an extensive view from the house. Dr. Hamilton, who in the meantime had been transferred to the living of Mullabrack, about six miles from Armagh, took up his residence at the Observatory, and several instruments were ordered at the Primate's expense. Unfortunately, the generous founder died on the 10th of October, 1794,{4} and two instruments ordered from Ramsden (a transit instrument and a meridian circle) were countermanded by Primate Robinson's heirs, so that the Observatory only obtained a large equatoreal by Troughton, and three clocks. The equatoreal, which is described in Rees' Cyclopedia, arrived in December, 1795, and was mounted under the dome on two stone piers resting on a massive pillar, round which the staircase of the dwelling-house winds. By its maker this instrument was expected to supply results as accurate as those obtained by meridian instruments - an expectation which it is needless to say was not fulfilled. It is mounted in the English manner. There is no polar axis, but the Right Ascension Circle (4 feet in diameter) is attached to the polar pivots by four stays. The declination circle is of the same size and is similarly attached by stays to two pivots, which turn in Y's fastened to the R A Circle. The object-glass of the telescope has an aperture of 2.5 inches. There are two microscopes, east and west, mounted on iron stands, for the purpose of reading the R A Circle. Of the three clocks two were furnished by Thomas Earnshaw, of London, and one of them in particular is an unusually good instrument.{5} It has been in incessant use since it was put up in 1794, and was in 1880 further improved by Dr. Robinson by the attachment of a mercurial pendulum, to which two years later was added a pair of compensating barometers in order to counteract the influence of the height of the barometer on the clock rate. This was a very decided improvement and the action of the clock is still unusually good.{6}

The Transit Instrument not having been received, as already stated, a watchmaker in Armagh constructed one for Dr. Hamilton - of course only making a poor substitute for what Ramsden would have produced. With this instrument observations of the Sun, Moon, and Standard Stars were commenced in July, 1798, by Dr. Hamilton and his Assistant.{7} Nothing was ever published of these observations (which were continued up to the time the instrument was dismounted, in 1827) except some observations of Moon culminating Stars made between 1795 and 1804, and a number of differences of Right Ascension of pairs of stars observed in 1802 and 1803 at Greenwich and Armagh on the same night, and intended to prove the accuracy of the Armagh results.{8} With a 42-inch refractor, by Dollond, Dr. Hamilton also made a series of measures of the Sun's apparent diameter in 1794-95, in order to test the relative accuracy of a wire-micrometer and an " object-glass micrometer," both by Dollond.{9} The Equatoreal was employed partly for miscellaneous observations, and partly for determining the Declinations of 37 Standard Stars, the results being published by Mr. Pond in the Philo8. Transactions for 1806, pp. 453-4.54.{10}

Dr. Hamilton, who, in addition to his other offices, held the dignity of Dean of Cloyne from 1804, died on the 21st November, 1815, and was succeeded as Astronomer at Armagh by the Rev. William Davenport, Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and formerly Professor of Natural Philosophy. During his term of office the Transit Instrument continued to be used by Mr. Hogg. Dr. Davenport died on the 26th July, 1823, and a few weeks later the Primate, Lord John George Beresford, appointed the Rev. Thomas Romney Robinson, Rector of Enniskillen, to the vacant post. The following year Dr. Robinson exchanged the living of Enniskillen for that of Carrickmacross, in the diocese of Clogher (also a college living) which he continued to hold till his death,{11} but he always resided at the Armagh Observatory. When Dr. Robinson took charge of the Observatory, its equipment was the same as in 1795, the two immediate successors of Primate Robinson having taken no interest in the promotion of science, and the endowment of the Observatory not being sufficient to defray the expense of buying instruments. Dr. Robinson set himself to work at once to ascertain the state of the instruments, but found that the Transit was not capable of furnishing any useful results, while the Equatoreal, though its performance was good, could only find very limited application.{12} Happily, the Primate, Lord John George Beresford, on having the case represented to him, ordered immediately, with that munificence of which Armagh possesses so many proofs, that the requisite instruments should be procured without limitation of price. Accordingly a Transit Instrument and a Mural Circle were ordered from Jones, of London, and considerable additions were made to the buildings to make room for the new instruments. The transit room was continued towards the east by another meridian room (for the circle), and east of that again a tower was built, surmounted by a revolving dome, under which a ten feet Newtonian by Sir W. Herschel was placed on a stone-pier. The north side of the tower bears the inscription:-"For the advancement of Science, erected by John George, Archbishop of Armagh, 1827." In 1832 a computing room and library was built in the south-east corner between the dwelling house and the passage to the transit room, and in 1848 a polishing room was built to the south of the east tower.

The Transit Instrument was mounted in the Autumn of 1827. It has an aperture of 3.75 inches, and a focal length of 63 inches. The Mural Circle arrived towards the end of 1831. Its diameter is 56 inches, and its telescope (used till 1860) was a duplicate of that of the Transit. These two instruments have been so fully described by Dr. Robinson{13} that it will not be necessary to enter into further particulars here. The ten-feet reflector was in 1835 superseded by a reflector (to be used either in the Newtonian or the Cassegrain form) of 15 inches aperture and nine feet focal length, which was made by Th. Grubb, and equatoreally mounted (with clock movement) under the East dome.{14} These were the instruments with which Dr. Robinson for a number of years worked most assiduously, and with which the results embodied in the well-known Armagh Catalogue of Stars were produced. The chief object was to re-determine the positions of the stars observed by Bradley about the middle of last century, to which towards the close of the work a number of other stars (principally from Lalande's catalogue) were added. Up to March, 1837, all the observations were made by Dr. Robinson. He then handed over the Transit Instrument to the newly-appointed assistant, Mr. Neil M'Neil Edmondson, and continued himself to observe with the Mural Circle up to March, 1850. In addition to the observations for the Star-Catalogue several special investigations were entered on, particularly the determination of the Longitude of the Observatory by chronometers, rocket signals, and other methods,{15} and a rigorous investigation of the law of refraction as deduced from observations with the Mural Circle.{16} While it was easy enough to get papers on such special subjects published by learned societies, it was a more difficult matter to provide for the publication of the great mass of current observations. Through the ever ready liberality of the Primate the original observations with all details for the years 1828, 1829, and 1830 were printed,{17} but after 1832 many of the clergy of the Established Church were, in consequence of the Tithe Agitation, for a time reduced to great distress, and Dr. Robinson considered that there were more urgent claims on the Primate's generosity, so that the publication of the Armagh Observations was intermitted. Various attempts were made from time to time to obtain assistance from the Government, but without success unti1 1850, when the Royal Society (then under the presidency of the Earl of Rosse) voted a sum out of the amount placed annually at its disposal by the Government "for the furthering of scientific objects. Though the sum voted was not sufficient to defray the cost of printing the great mass of observations, it was possible to publish the single results of each observation for every star, and the work of preparing these for the press was at once commenced. As this involved a considerable amount of labour, and it was still necessary to observe a number of stars, Dr. Robinson, in August, 1850, engaged as his private assistant Mr. W. H. Rambaut, and handed over the Mural Circle to him. Even with this addition to the staff, the task of observing, computing, and reading of proofs was not finished before 1859, when the work was published in a large octavo volume of more than 900 pages. The title is - Places of 5,845 Stars observed from 1828 to 1854 at the Armagh Observatory. By Rev. T. R. Robinson, D.D., F.R.S., &c., Dublin, 1859," (lxvii. and 847 pp.). The work contains first a very full account of the instruments and the methods of observing and reducing, next follow the separate results for the place of every star observed, and finally a catalogue of the resulting mean positions for the beginning of the year 1840, with the data necessary for reducing them to any other epoch.

This work, commonly known as the Armagh Catalogue, is of great value, and is one of the Star Catalogues in everyday use among Astronomers, either when comparison stars are wanted for observations of planets and comets, or when Proper Motions of stars are being investigated. It is as yet the principal work produced at the Armagh Observatory, and considering the small staff attached to the institution, it remains a testimony of the untiring energy and perseverance of the late Astronomer and his assistants. In 1862 the Royal Society presented Dr. Robinson with a Royal medal in recognition of the excellence of the work.

Already long before the publication of the Catalogue was finished, Dr. Robinson had turned his attention to the question of selecting a new field for the observations. In 1840 the Observatory had acquired a considerable number of old instruments formerly belonging to the private Observatory of George III. at Kew, and presented by Her Majesty the Queen. Among these was one with which it was at first believed that good results could be obtained, viz., a Zenith Sector of 12 feet focal length and 4.25 inches aperture, and with his wonted liberality the Primate had a square tower (with flat and partly sliding roof) built over the eastern part of the Transit-room, and the Sector mounted in it on a solid stand of cast iron (1841). It was unfortunately found that the combination of wood and metal in the construction of the Sector was very detrimental to its performance. The instrument, which would have required to have been entirely re-constructed, has thus never been used. It was dismounted in 1882, and suspended on the walls of the "Sector Tower;" where also the other instruments from Kew, some of which possess great historical interest, are preserved.{18}

Being unable to utilise these instruments, and finding that the limited aperture of the two meridian instruments placed obstacles in the way of observing the fainter stars, which it every day became more important to attend to, Dr. Robinson already in 1848 formed the plan of converting the Mural Circle into a Transit Circle, by adding to it a second axis supported on a pier, and substituting a telescope of larger aperture for the old one of 3.75 inches diameter. The pressure of the amount of work incidental to the publication of the great catalogue prevented, however, the matter from being looked into, but after the publication of the catalogue, and when Lord John Beresford again provided the necessary means, the plan was carried out. A new telescope of about the same focal length as the old one, but of seven inches aperture, was made by Mr. Thomas Grubb, of Dublin, and attached to the Circle (without adding a second pier), and two small collimators were mounted in the same room on iron pillars, north and south of the Circle. The improvements were finished in 1862, the same year which witnessed the death of the generous restorer of the Observatory, without whom Primate Robinson's plans would have been but very imperfectly carried out.{19}

The improved Mural Circle was at once brought into use, though not very extensively for some time, owing to the failing health of the Assistant, Mr. Edmondson. He died in July, 1864, and was succeeded by the Rev. W. H. Rambaut, who had already from 1850 for about ten years assisted in the observations and reductions. A new series of observations of stars selected from those observed by Lalande at the close of the last century was now commenced, and in 1865 Dr. Robinson purchased and presented to the Observatory an electric chronograph for registering the transits, which proved of great value in increasing the accuracy of the work, especially after the clock movement had been altered by Mr. Grubb in 1868. The observations have been continued up to the present moment, when upwards of 3,000 stars have been observed, the greater part from three to five times. Most of the observations have been taken by the Rev. Charles Faris, M.A., L.C.E., who succeeded Mr. Rambaut as Assistant in September, 1868.{20}

We are not able in this short notice to dwell on the many other investigations on subjects connected with Physics and Meteorology, which Dr. Robinson had from time to time engaged in, or his frequent services on committees appointed by the Royal Society or the British Association, which have produced many results of permanent value. We shall only allude to the great Melbourne Reflector, in planning and constructing which he had a great share. The Anemometer which bears his name was first put up on the roof in 1846, but meteorological observations had already been commenced in 1833 and regularly continued. In 1867, when the Board of Trade decided to establish seven first-class meteorological stations throughout the British Islands, where complete sets of self-recording instruments {working by photography) should be in action day and night without interruption, Armagh was selected as one of the stations. A small house was built to the east of the Tower at the expense of the Board of Trade, and the work was regularly commenced in May, 1868, the observer {Mr. S. Call) having been appointed by Dr. Robinson. This department has been continued since then, superintended by the Director of the Armagh Observatory, at the expense of the Meteorological Council, by whom the results are also published. It will, however, be discontinued on December 31, 1883, the Council intending only to keep up the stations at Kew, Aberdeen, and Valencia.

While thus the Observatory was still the scene of continued activity, a very serious loss was inflicted on it by the Disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1869. The effect of the Act for this purpose was to prevent the renewal of the leases, which hitherto had always been renewed without fine by the Primate for the time being. While the Irish Church Act was before the House of Commons, an attempt was made by the Right Hon. J. T. Ball, Member for Dublin University, and one of the Governors of the Armagh Observatory, to obtain compensation for the loss about to be inflicted on the institution, but this met with a refusal from the head of the Government. In the House of Lords, Earl Stanhope moved an amendment to the same effect, but withdrew it in consequence of a statement from Lord Dufferin, that the Government "would at the proper time be quite prepared to consider any claim which might be preferred on its behalf."{21} The subsisting Lease of the Rectorial Tithes of Carlingford was ultimately (in 1873) purchased from the Governors by the Commissioners of Church Temporalities for the sum of £2,277 15s. 9d., being merely its value, supposing no renewal, but as the Commissioners on the other hand had no power to renew the leases of the Church lands of Tullynure and Busky, the perpetuity of these leases had to be purchased from the Commissioners at a cost of £1,081 2s. 5d., reducing the capital of the Observatory to £1,246 13s. 4d. Thus the annual income of the Observatory (from which the Assistant is paid and contingent expenses met), which had hitherto been about £216 (£106 from rent of the lands and £109 16s. 10.5d from the tithes), became reduced by about £60.

But this was not the only loss to the institution caused by the Church Act. Not only is it now no longer possible for the Astronomer, in addition to his moderate income (which in consequence of the Land Act of 1881 will certainly be reduced considerably), to hold a college living, but the liberality of the Archbishop of Armagh, which formerly might confidently be counted on in cases of emergency, can never more be appealed to, as future Primates can expect only a very moderate income. In 1874 a memorial was presented to Mr. Disraeli, calling attention to the fact that the Observatory, without having cost the nation one penny, might rank with the best national Institutions, but that its resources were seriously reduced by the Act of 1869. The memorial received for answer that the time had not yet come for considering the question. Of course so long as the Astronomer was Dr. Robinson, who had besides the income of a valuable benefice, the matter was not so pressing as it has now become.

On the 28th of February, 1882, Dr. Robinson died, having almost reached the age of ninety, and having held the post of Astronomer of the Armagh Observatory for more than fifty-eight years. As it has been shown in the foregoing pages, he found the Observatory almost destitute of Instruments and comparatively unknown; he left it having acquired for it an honoured name by the well-planned and extensive series of observations embodied in the Armagh Catalogue, as well as by his numerous other publications. Though he was during the last twenty years of his life unable to take active part in the observations, his enthusiasm for science was unabated to the last, as his elaborate experiments to determine the constants of the Cup-Anemometer, invented by himself, can testify. The results of these researches are contained in two memoirs in the Philosophical Transactions for 1878 and 1880.

A few months after Dr. Robinson's death the Primate appointed J. L. E. Dreyer, Ph.D., Assistant Astronomer at the Observatory of Trinity College, editor of Copernicus, an International Journal of Astronomy, and formerly (1874-78) Astronomer to the Earl of Rosse, to the vacant post. Owing to the extensive repairs which had to be made in the dwelling-house, Dr. Dreyer was unable to take up residence in the Observatory till August 31.

The present state of the instruments may be summarised as follows:- In addition to the clocks and the chronograph the only instruments capable of producing anything like good results are the Mural Circle and the 15-inch Equatoreal Reflector. Of these the Mural Circle, even with the improvement carried out in 1862, is quite out of date as to construction. It is true that in careful hands it produces star-places not much inferior to those found by more modern instruments, and it may be confidently asserted that the Catalogue of 3,000 Stars, which is now in course of preparation for the press, will be of value.{22} But, considering the circumstance that nearly every Observatory now possesses a Transit Circle of modern construction, it seems of little use to continue beyond the close of the present series to observe with this instrument. To try to improve it does not appear advisable, as a reconstruction of it, in order to be thoroughly efficient, would cost nearly as much as a new Transit Circle; but the fine seven-inch telescope belonging to the instrument might be employed with more profit, either mounted as an Equatoreal or as a Meridian Zone Instrument for differential observations of very faint stars. The 15-inch Reflector only wants to be polished in order to become a useful instrument (even in its present state it furnished a good observation of the Transit of Venus on December 6, 1882{23}), and if an electric control was added to the clock movement the instrument would become very serviceable for celestial photography - very promising field of work. An equatoreally-mounted Refractor of at least six inches aperture is very much needed for micrometrical work, the largest Refractor available at present having only 3.8 inches aperture. An application has, therefore, been addressed to the Admiralty asking for the loan of one of the six-inch Refractors recently employed on the Transit of Venus Expeditions.

Unfortunately the funds of the Observatory, as described above, are barely sufficient for unavoidable current expenses, but there is no provision for improving the instrumental equipment.

There is an excellent scientific Library in the Observatory, indebted to Dr. Robinson for many and most valuable gifts.



(From Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 3rd Series, vol. cxcvii. [4th vol. of Session 1868-69], cols. 1490-1493.

EARL STANHOPE proposed after clause 69 to insert clause:-" Whereas the Trustees of the Observatory at Armagh hold a lease of the rectorial tithes of the parish of Carlingford, customarily renewable by the See of Armagh, and under the provisions of this Bill such lease will cease to be renewable, and the aforesaid scientific institution be deprived of a portion of the annual income available for its support, it is hereby provided that the Commissioners shall pay to the Trustees of the said Institution such sum as shall appear to them to be a fair compensation for the loss of the said customary right of renewal." The noble Earl said, the Observatory was founded in 1791, and had ever since that time, through the liberality of the successive Irish Primates, been allowed a renewal of the lease of these tithes without fine. It did great honour to Ireland, being the only Observatory in Ireland, with the exception of that erected by the late Lord Rosse ;{24} and in Committee the noble Lord (Lord Talbot de Malahide), than whom no man was better acquainted with its merits, bore emphatic testimony to its services. He had not named any specific sum, those interested in the institution being quite willing to leave this to the judgement of the Commissioners, who were entitled to the fullest confidence. Notwithstanding the good intention expressed on the last occasion by the noble Lord (Lord Dufferin) on the part of the Government, it would be more satisfactory if the Bill contained a distinct recognition of its claims, in the event of its not being entitled, under other clauses, to a continuance of the advantages it had hitherto enjoyed.

LORD DUFFERIN said that further inquiry had confirmed his belief that this endowment emanated solely from the private benevolence of successive Primates, and that it had no legal claim under this Bill. He could only repeat, therefore, that he fully recognized the great services it had rendered to the country, and that the Government would, at the proper time, be quite prepared to consider any claim which might be preferred on its behalf. If it could make out a title to a customary lease, the noble Earl's object would be gained; but otherwise it would be difficult to treat this case exceptionally by recognizing a claim which had no valid title.

THE EARL OF ROSSE said that having for many years been acquainted with the gentleman who presided over this Observatory, he could speak in the highest terms of his scientific attainments and services. The Irish Church, as he understood, was to be disestablished and disendowed on account of its being the church of a small minority of the Irish people, but for that very reason this institution ought to be maintained, since it benefited the whole Irish people and the cause of science generally. He hoped, therefore, that the Government would accede to the clause.

EARL GRANVILLE said that the noble Earl's remarks must have been acceptable to their Lordships, since he believed he had a personal as well as hereditary right to speak on behalf of any scientific institution. The only objection to the clause was that, whatever the claims of the Observatory, they ought to be met not in this Bill, but in another manner.

THE EARL OF HARROWBY said he hoped so excellent an institution would not be allowed to sink into obscurity or become impoverished. The Bill originally provided for the maintenance of the Irish cathedrals on account of their architectural and historical interest; and it was not unreasonable to provide for this institution as a relic of the liberality of the Irish Church towards science.

THE DUKE OF SOMERSET said he thought this Observatory should be maintained in the same way as the Institution at Greenwich. The money ought not to be taken out of the property of the Irish Church, but out of the Parliamentary vote for Science and Art.

LORD REDESDALE remarked that as it had been proposed to apply the surplus to the relief of the county cess, there was no reason why a small sum should not go to the relief of public taxation, and to an institution which would be a monument of the liberality of the Irish Church to science during the time it was allowed to retain its property.

EARL DE GREY AND RIPON said that if the Observatory had a legal claim it would not be interfered with by the Bill, and urged that otherwise it ought not to be recognized in this Bill. The noble Duke's (the Duke of Somerset's) suggestion would have the consideration of the Government.

THE EARL OF CLANCARTY pressed for a distinct pledge from the Government to protect the Observatory from loss.

LORD CAIRNS said he did not think the Observatory could, in point of law, sustain a claim to a customary renewal of this lease. He hoped he had not misunderstood the noble Lord (Lord Dufferin) in concluding that the Government were quite alive to the loss which the Observatory would sustain by the loss of an estate granted by the liberality of various Primates, and would consider favourably its claim for compensation. In Parliamentary language, they would be prepared to submit a Vote in the estimates for maintaining the Observatory in as good a position as hitherto, and he thought their Lordships should be content with that pledge.

EARL DE GREY AND RIPON said he had given no pledge, but had simply stated that the Government would consider the question.

LORD CAIRNS explained that this remark had reference to the noble Lord {Lord Dufferin ).

EARL STANHOPE said, he feared that "consideration" was too vague a word.

LORD TAUNTON said, he thought the Government had given a sufficient assurance, and remarked that the Irish Members of the House of Commons would be very well able to ask for the requisite Vote.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR objected to the recital, as affirming the existence of a lease customarily renewable, of which no proof had been given. If, however, this was the fact, the Observatory was already sufficiently provided for. He did not wish to throw cold water on its claims, for he had been told by the President of the Royal Society that no Observatory in the world had been more useful to science.

LORD CAIRNS said he thought the Bill would not in any case provide for the Observatory, for it recognized rights of renewal as to lands only, and not as to tithes, which, indeed, would be extinguished at the end of fifty-two years. Through feelings of liberality the lease had been renewed annually without fine, but there was no legal obligation.

EARL STANHOPE said, he was willing to amend the recital, but he was reluctant to withdraw the clause in the absence of a more distinct assurance from the Government.

EARL GREY said, he thought the claims of the Observatory might safely be intrusted to the Irish Members of the House of Commons.

THE EARL OF PORTARLINGTON wished for a more distinct pledge.

EARL STANHOPE said, he felt himself in a difficult position, being charged with the interest of others; but having taken the advice of those round him, and trusting that the favourable consideration promised by the Government signified an intention to propose a grant, he would withdraw the clause.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.


{1} Born about 1748, entered Trinity College, Dublin, Nov. 1, 1764, and graduated B.A. in 1769, B.D. and D.D. in 1784.

{2} Philosophical Transactions, 1783; Transactions of the R. Irish Academy. Vol. i, pp. 23 and 29.

{3} Irish Statutes, 31st George III., ch. 46.

{4} Richard Robinson was descended from the Robinsons of Rokeby, in Yorkshire, and came over as chaplain to the Duke of Dorset in 1751. He became Archbishop of Armagh in 1765. In 1777 he was created Baron Rokeby, in the Peerage of Ireland.

{5} Earnshaw's An Appeal to the Public, stating his claim to a national reward (London, 1808, 8vo.), contains four testimonials from Dr. Hamilton as to the excellence of the Armagh clock.

{6} The clock and its performance are fully described by Dr. Robinson in the Armagh Catalogue of Stars, p. xviii. and seq., comp. Memoirs of the Royal. Astron. Soc., vol. v., pp.125-134. .

{7} In May, 1793 Dr. Hamilton appointed Mr. Palmer his assistant, allowing him to continue his studies at Cambridge. He resigned in the following winter and was succeeded by Mr. Gimingham (of Caius' College, Cambridge), who retired in November, 1796. From May, 1797, to January, 1799 a Mr. Bradyn was assistant, and he was followed by the Rev. Robert Hogg, Presbyterian Minister, who held the office for more than 30 years till his death. "

{8} Trans. R. Irish Acad., vol. xi. pp. 25-44.

{9} Ibid, vol. x. pp. 109-117.

{10} On the Declinations of some of the Principal Fixed Stars. These are the only published results of observations with the Armagh Equatoreal.

{11} Dr. Robinson was born in Dublin on the 23rd April, 1792, studied at Trinity College and obtained Fellowship in 1814. He was for some years Deputy Professor of Natural Philosophy, and relinquished his Fellowship on obtaining the College living of Enniskillen.

{12} He wrote a paper in 1825 On Correcting Observations made with Equatoria Instruments, Trans. R. Irish Acad, vol. xv., and a paper On Correcting Errors of the Astronomical Circle by Opposite Readings. (Ibid.)

{13} The Transit in the Armagh Observations for 1828 and 1829, the Circle in vol. ix. of the Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society; both of them in the introduction to the Armagh Catalogue of Stars.

{14} The late Earl of Rosse, in 1843, made and presented to the Observatory a duplicate mirror for this telescope.

{15} Mem. R. Astron. Soc., vol. iv., pp. 293-304; Trans. R. Irish Acad, vol. ix., pp. 110-146.

{16} Trans. R. Irish Acad., vol. xix., pp. 177-227.

{17} Astronomical Observations made at the Armagh Observatory. by T. R. Robinson, D.D., vol. i., Parts 1, 2, 3. London, 1829-32, 4to, 127 pp. An account of the state of the Observatory and the work done up to 1842 was printed in that year under the title: Report made at the Annual Visitation 0f the Armagh Observatory (Armagh, 8vo., 12 pp.)

{18} Among these are a wonderfully well preserved reflector, by Short, of 6-in. aperture and 2 feet focal length, with Newtonian, Gregorian, and Cassegrain mirrors; a nine-inch mirror by W. Herschel (10 feet focal length), an old quadrant with transversal divisions, several old clocks (one of them a good M. T. clock), &c.

{19} In the course of years Lord John Beresford had spent nearly £2,500 on the Armagh Observatory. The Transit with Piers cost £300, the Circle with Pier, £850, the new telescope for it £250, the 15-inch Reflector, £220, the building of the Circle Room, the Tower and Dome, £633, and the Sector Tower and Mounting about £150.

{20} As a specimen of the work, Dr. Robinson published in 1879, in the Transactions of the Royal Dublin Society, Places of one thousand Stars observed at the Armagh Observatory. The series is now being closed, and the definitive results in course of preparation for the press.

{21} See the extract from Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, at the end of this Memoir.

{22} The Royal Society has granted a sum to defray the cost of printing this Second Armagh Catalogue.

{23} Copernicus, vol. iii., p. 18.

{24} [It is scarcely necessary to point out that Lord Stanhope forgot to allude to the Observatory of Trinity College, at Dunsink, and the private Observatory of the late Mr. Cooper at Markree Castle. In 1869 the former had, however, only just recommenced the vigorous activity which it had displayed early in the century, and the latter was closed from Mr. Cooper's death in 1863 till 1874. It may not be out of place to mention here, that Mr. Cooper imbibed his love of Astronomy by visiting the Armagh Observatory during his stay at the Royal School of Armagh]. -

Last Revised: 2011 September 1st