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Reflections on the Astronomy of GlasgowA story of some 500 years$
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David Clarke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748678891

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678891.001.0001

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Establishing Astronomy

Establishing Astronomy

(p.48) Chapter 3 Establishing Astronomy
Reflections on the Astronomy of Glasgow

David Clarke

Edinburgh University Press

Following Sinclair's bequests and gifts of equipment to the University, the Professors Dick (father and son) advanced astronomy teaching in the early 18th century. Dick Jnr continued to purchase teaching and research instruments, having journeyed to England to meet ‘men of science’. In the 1750s he proposed that the University should have an observatory. The bequest of Alexander Macfarlane's (a former Glasgow student) equipment from his observatory in Jamaica provided the final encouragement to establish one in 1757 within the College grounds in the High Street. Observations at the original Jamaican observatory had provided a longitude value which was debated during the ‘Longitude Affair’ associated with the arguments over the stability of Harrison's seafaring clock. The stories are told of how James Watt, the celebrated engineer, cleaned the instruments for the Glasgow Macfarlane Observatory, so providing him with his first emolument, and how later associations through family connections within the University gave furtherance to his career. The machinations of the Duke of Argyll over the establishment of a Regius Chair of Astronomy in 1760, allowing Alexander Wilson to remain in Glasgow, rather than taking his founding business back to London, are also covered.

Keywords:   Astronomy teaching in the early 18th century, Professors Dick, Longitude affair, Harrison's seafaring clock, Macfarlane Observatory, James Watt, Regius Chair of Astronomy

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