At the 1880 Annual meeting of the Paisley Philosophical Institution, it was proposed that the society should purchase an astronomical telescope. Mr Thomas Coats of Ferguslie, then a member of the council with advice from Professor Grant at Glasgow University a 5 inch telescope by Cooke of York was obtained.
Mr Coats provided an observatory with a sum of £2,000. This Coats Observatory would become the oldest public observatory in Scotland. On the 10th September 1883 the observatory was opened to members of the philosophical society and was then opened to the public from Monday 1st October 1883.
Mr Donald McLean one of Professor Grant’s assistants was appointed first curator. Between 1892-1898 additional equipment including a 10 inch telescope by Grubb of Dublin would be added.
The Cooke telescope would be used throughout the 19th and 20th century in order to promote astronomy. In 1963 the running of the observatory passed from the Paisley Philosophical Society to that of the town council. This placed the observatory under the museum and galleries committee.
At present the Coats observatory is closed and us due to reopen in 2023.