Wednesday 12 January 2022

A Cooke and the Edinburgh Observatory


As promised here is a short blog on the 6 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope in Edinburgh Observatory.

The formal opening of the Edinburgh Observatory took place on Monday 24th October 1898 with over 100 ladies and gentlemen present. The formal opening was performed by Lord Provost Mitchell Thomson. There had been an observatory in Edinburgh since 1811 but towards the end of the 19th century and with costs spiralling the observatory had been transferred from government control to the Edinburgh town council in 1896.

Although by the end of 1898 not everyone was so keen on astronomy in the city. The council report for the year said that out of the common good comes the expenses of running the observatory which had become a white elephant as it cost £419 a year to run. In 2022 prices this would be £58,000!!

The 6 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope had been donated in I believe 1896 by William McEwan who was Member of Parliament for Edinburgh Central from 1886-1900.He was a member of the Liberal Party. He also founded the Fountain Brewery company later this would become Scottish & Newcastle Brewery.

The 6 inch would be housed in the central dome and would be operated by Mr William Peck, the city astronomer. He looked after the observatory until his death in 1925.

The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh ran the observatory from 1937 until 2009 when due to a lack of investment from the council it became impossible for an amateur society run to an observatory in what is a World Heritage Site.

However recently there has been some great news with the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh getting limited access to the 6 inch Cooke telescope and hopefully in the future being able to use it again and show the people of Edinburgh the wonders of the night sky.

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