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Archives of the University Observatory, its sister body the Solar Physics Observatory, and their successors, the combined Observatories and Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, 1818 - 1999

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/Obsy

Scope and Contents

The archives comprise the records of internal governance, finance, building and equipment development and astronomical observation, together with several small assortments of personal papers of individuals associated with the University Observatory, its sister and successor bodies, such as G.B. Airy, H.F. Newall and R.O. Redman.


  • Creation: 1818 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

From the Management Group:

The University Archives are generally freely available to the holder of a reader's ticket for the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. Restrictions on access are imposed on certain categories of sensitive record: financial, governmental and personal, by order of the originating body or under data protection legislation. Access information, including opening hours and how to obtain a reader's ticket, appears as part of the Library's web site (

Conditions Governing Use

Requests to publish text should be addressed to the Keeper of University Archives, photographs to the Head of Digital Content Unit. Both at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR.

Biographical / Historical

The first University Observatory, started in 1710, but not completed until 1739, was situated on top of the Great Gate of Trinity College. It seems to have been little used, and was dismantled in 1797. The present Observatory was built on Madingley Road in 1823. The Solar Physics Observatory moved to same site from London in 1913. They combined as the 'Observatories' in 1947 and amalgamated with the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy to form the Institute of Astronomy in 1972. For further background information, see F.J.M. Stratton, 'The history of the Cambridge Observatories' in Annals of the Solar Physics Observatory, Cambridge vol. I, 1949.


34 linear metre(s) : paper and glass and copper photographic plate

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A catalogue was prepared in hard copy in 1999 and put into digital form in 2000. A hard copy catalogue is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room (ref.: UA In.31).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of records were transferred by the Institute of Astronomy in 1998. Obsy H.3.15-18 were transferred by the Institute on 25 November 2019. They are a permanent transfer to the University Archives. Obsy D.37 were purchased from Christian White Rare Books in November 2021.

Related Materials

See also among the University Archives: CUR 29, 29.2, 29.2.1, 39.12, 39.18; Min.VI.1, 35, 64, VII.60; Misc.Collect.83; P.XXVI.1-87, XXVII.1-38, XXVIII.1-33, XXXVII.1-20; Prem.VI.1.

Related Materials

See also: Royal Greenwich Observatory archives within the Manuscripts section of the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Cambridge University Library


This online catalogue was completed in 2002 and emended in Feb. 2005, July 2010, Sept. 2012 and Nov. 2021.


Cambridge University Observatory

Finding aid date

2000-07-28 17:09:58+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom