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Papers of 'The Observatory' magazine, 1922 - 1983

Reference Code: GBR/0180/RGO 84

Scope and Contents

The collection comprises an incomplete archive of the business papers of ‘The Observatory’ from 1922 to 1983 (mostly covering 1939-1975). The papers are arranged in four series: financial records, general correspondence and business files, reprints files, and miscellaneous print material.

The bulk of the collection consists of editorial correspondence with contributing authors, mainly concerning submissions for publication (RGO 83/2) and reprints (RGO 83/3). Some files include original drafts of submitted texts. Notable is the large series of correspondence concerning requests for reprints of papers from issues of the magazine published between 1960 and 1971 (RGO 84/3). Other significant records include a letter from Patrick Moore concerning a review (RGO 84/2/13), a 1941 agreement made with the Royal Astronomical Society to amalgamate their ‘Occasional Notes’ with ‘The Observatory’ (RGO 84/2/1), and a wartime request for a grant towards maintaining publication through wartime [c.1940-1945] (RGO 84/2/2).

Notable editors of ‘The Observatory’ during the period covered by the collection include Richard van der Riet Woolley (1933-1939), William McCrea (1935-1937), Margaret Burbidge (1948-1951), Anthony Hewish, (1957-1961), Donald Lynden-Bell (1967-1969), Carole Jordan (1968-1973), and Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1973-1976). A full list of the magazine's editors from 1877-1967 is printed on the back of ‘The Observatory’ anniversary dinner menu catalogued at RGO 84/4/2.


  • Creation: 1922 - 1983


Conditions Governing Access

The provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 apply to many of these records.

Biographical / Historical

'The Observatory' is a publication devoted to astronomy. It was founded at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in 1877 by William Christie, then Chief Assistant and later Astronomer Royal. The magazine publishes original scientific papers, notes and letters, accounts of conferences and of Royal Astronomical Society meetings, and book reviews from leading experts in all fields of astronomy. It is an independent publication, owned and managed by its editors.

Until 1984, there was always at least one editor on the 'board' of the magazine resident at the RO/RGO, for it was at the RO/RGO that the administration and finance was based. A list of the magazine’s editors from 1877-1967 can be seen on the back of the item catalogued at RGO 84/4/2. From 1982-1984, David Stickland was the RGO’s resident editor. In 1984 however, during a 'purge' of staff at RGO Herstmonceux due to budget cuts (which eventually saw RGO moved to Cambridge and then closed altogether), Stickland was transferred to the Rutherford Appleton Lab near Harwell in Oxfordshire, and the role of resident editor moved to the RAL with him. Following his retirement from the RAL, Stickland has continued his work as 'Managing Editor' of the magazine, a role he has now had for over 35 years.


0.07 cubic metre(s) (5 archive boxes) : Paper

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was created by various staff of the Royal Greenwich Observatory who worked as editors of 'The Observatory' magazine through the years. It was collated by former RGO Archivist, Dr Adam Perkins.


For further details of the history of the magazine, see: David Stickland, 'The Observatory Magazine: Linking Three Centuries’, in Andre Heck (ed.), Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy, Volume 4 (2003, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht). Further information can be found on 'The Observatory' website:


Catalogued by Dr Emma Saunders in May 2017.

Finding aid date

2017-03-27 11:54:34+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom