Prior to 1928 Angus was called Forfarshire.


Dick, Thomas, Rev.,  Ll.D. (1774-1857), lived at Herschell House, Hill Street, Broughty Ferry, Dundee where he had an observatory. He was a keen amateur astronomer and wrote books promoting the study of science within a Christian context. His house still exists, there is no sign of an observatory, but a birds eye view on Bing maps shows an octagonal wing which matches a sketch in his book Practical Astronomer.

Henderson, Thomas (1798-1844), born in Dundee and educated at Dundee Academy. Entering a legal career, in Edinburgh he had access to the Calton Hill Observatory, and on visits to London met leading astronomers, but his eyesight was poor, and he concentrated on mathematical astronomy. He accepted the post of Astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope, and in one year 1832-33 with one assistant and poor instruments made a prodigious number of observations, including those which enabled him to measure the parallax of Alpha Centuri as being 3.25 light years distant (a modern value is about 4.5). But the effort and conditions damaged his health, and he resigned and returned home.

In 1834 he was appointed first Astronomer Royal for Scotland after the government took over the Calton Hill Observatory. There with the assistance of Alexander Wallace he made some 60,000 observations, and most were published, but later errors were found in the mounting ofd the telescope. Henderson died young of heart disease.

Longair, Malcolm , Prof. (1941- ), second Astronomer Royal for Scotland to be born in Dundee. Educated at the Morgan Academy, Dundee, then Queen’s College of St Andrews University, then Ph.D. at Cambridge. Astronomer Royal for Scotland 1980-90. He was the Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University, from 1991 to 2008, and Head of the Cavendish 1997-2005 (see Wikipedia).

Newall, Robert Stirling (1812-1889), born in Dundee. Industrialist and amateur astronomer. Established his Ferndene Observatory at Gateshead, County Durham, in 1871 with a 25″ Cooke refractor. His bequest in 1889 of this instrument to Cambridge University, because of his son Hugh Frank Newall (1857-1944), proved to be transforming to Cambridge taking the British lead in astrophysics (see ODNBHutchins 2008).

Watson, John, FRAS (1844-1911), born Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, friend of Rev. Dick, owned a 76mm refractor, later a 127mm Dallmeyer -Grubb equatorial. BAA member for W of Scotland and NW branches. President of Manchester AS and VP of Liverpool AS.

Wilson, Alexander (1714-1786), born and educated at St Andrews, he graduated from the local university. He invented, and developed a business in type manufacturing for printing. His interests in natural philosophy led him to being appointed in 1760 the first Professor of Practical Astronomy at the University of Glasgow, with charge of the Dowanhill Observatory. There he observed the transit of Venus, Jupiter’s satellites, eclipses and occultations. He studied sunspots, and in 1769 made his discovery of the Wilson Effect. He had deduced from geometrical calculation that the spots were cavities or depressions in the solar surface (see ODNB).


The Mills Observatory in Dundee, Scotland, is the only full-time public astronomical observatory in the UK. Built in 1935, the observatory is classically styled in sandstone and has a distinctive 7 metre dome, which houses a 10-nch Cooke refracting telescope, a small planetarium, and display areas. The dome is one of two made from papier-mâché to survive in the UK, the other being at the Godlee Observatory.

St Andrew’s Observatory, 1672-
See: James Gregory. The building stood south-east of the Library until the 19th-century when it was demolished.

St Andrews University Observatory, 1939-
Sir Peter Scott Lang (1850-1926), Emeritus Professor of Mathemaitcs, had long wished to encourage astronomy. He bequeathed money to found a Dept. of Astronomy. In 1936 his daughter Edith founded the Napier Lectureship in Astronomy, and the first appointee was Dr E. Finlay-Freundlich. Building started in 1941 and the University observatory was first equipped with a 4″ refractor borrowed from the Royal Institute. A 10″ Cooke refractor of 1871 (formerly owned by James Worthington of Winchester), and a coelostat were purchased. The Cooke was transferred to the Mills Observatory in the early 1950s, because between 1948-50 a 15″/19″ Schmidt-Cassegrain was built. In 1952 the staff started building the James Gregory Telescope, a 30″/36″ Schmidt-Cassegrain. It was completed in 1962, the largest optical telescope built in Scotland. In 1959 the Napier Chair of Astronomy was endowed.

Societies and Organisations

Dundee Astronomical Society (DunAS), founded 1956.  Members meet once or twice a month at the Mills Observatory, Balgay Hill, Dundee.



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