HISTORY OF OLD MADRAS OBSERVATORY

Madras Observatory was established in 1792 “for promoting the knowledge of Astronomy, Geography and Navigation in India ” by Sir Charles Oakeley the then Governor of Madras under the East India Company. Sir Oakeley’s scheme was largely supported by Mr William Petrie, a member of the Madras Government, who for some five years earlier had built an observatory at his private expense, probably the first modern astronomical observatory in the East. The 10-ton, 15 feet tall granite pillar which carried the original transit equipment is still preserved and carries the name of the architect, Michael Topping Arch and the year A.D.MDCCXCII. Tamil and Telugu inscriptions were carved on the pillar in order that “ posterity may be informed a thousand years hence of the period when the mathematical sciences were first planted by British liberality in Asia”.

The first astronomer was Mr J Goldingham, FRS who began recording the meteorological observations in 1796.

Hourly meteorological observations were started in 1840 by Capt S O E Ludlow. For thirty years from 1861 Mr N R Pogson held the post of Astronomer of Madras observatory. He also held the post of Meteorological reporter to the Government of Madras for many years. He was assisted in his work by his wife and daughter.

In 1899 Mr R L Jones, Professor of Physics, Madras Presidency College was appointed as part-time meteorologist of Madras observatory. The post was abolished in 1926 and a full-time Assistant Meteorologist was appointed.

The Madras Observatory survived for five more years and in 1931 it was reduced to the status of an ordinary Pilot Balloon Observatory. Until then Madras observatory was supplying the time signal throughout the Indian Telegraph system and issuing the Madras Daily Weather Report which had commenced in October 1893.

 

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