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Papers of John Franklin-Adams, 1897 - 1909

Reference Code: GBR/0180/RGO 75

Scope and Contents

Two journals by Franklin-Adams recording his astronomical work from 1897, when he first established an observatory at his house, until 1909, thus covering his time spent mapping the southern heavens at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope (1902-1904).


  • Creation: 1897 - 1909


Conditions Governing Access

From the Management Group:

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

John Franklin-Adams, distinguished British amateur astronomer, was born in Peckham in 1843. A Lloyd’s underwriter by profession, he developed his interest in astronomy in later life and was largely self-taught.

Franklin-Adams conceived of the idea of a photographic star chart in the late 1890s when he set up an observatory at his house in Machrihanish in Argyllshire. Between 1902 and 1904 he undertook work in South Africa photographing the whole of the Southern sky. He returned to England in 1904 and attached an observatory to his new home near Godalming in Surrey; by 1909 he had photographed the whole of the Northern sky.

Franklin-Adams became dissatisfied with the quality of his South Africa plates and was about to return to re-photograph the southern sky when he became ill. Instead, his assistant R.J. Mitchell along with H.E. Wood did, or re-did, the southern work, at the Union (Transvaal) Observatory.

The Franklin-Adams star charts are the first photographic atlas of the sky. They were published posthumously in 1913-1914 by the Royal Astronomical Society in 206 sheets.

Franklin-Adams also took part in two eclipse expeditions: the first to Santa Pola, Spain, for the Total Solar Eclipse on 28th May 1900 when he accompanied an observing party from the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh; the second to Algiers to observe the eclipse of 30th August 1905.

Franklin-Adams was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1897. He bequeathed the plates to the Royal Observatory on his death in 1912; his journals may have been acquired by the Royal Observatory at the same time.


2 volume(s) : Paper

2 envelope(s) : Paper

Language of Materials


Related Materials

RGO 120: John Franklin Adams, Astronomical Photographic Plates. These are not held at CUL and are currently unavailable for access.


Catalogued by Dr Emma Saunders in July 2015 based on notes compiled by Dr Adam Perkins.

Finding aid date

2015-07-31 10:10:57+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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