The AGM and autumn conference was held on Saturday 29th October 2016. It was held at the usual venue and home of the SHA library the Birmingham Midland Institute. The conference had a stellar line up with four talks scheduled as well as the AGM.  70 people attended with the majority being members but also several guests and another new member signed up on the day.


The conference started with Bill Barton’s talk discussing his interesting research into the Chaldean Society. This society had a short but very productive history. Producing quarterly magazines over the course of several years from 1916, this society mainly had a program of work which focused on naked eye observations, although several their more experienced astronomers had access to telescopes. They were particularly keen on eclipse watching and by 1927 they produced an eclipse special. Not only did they have a central branch but towards the end of the society they had several branches.

Dr Lee Macdonald’s talk was about the Astronomer Royal George Airy and the Magnetic and Meteorological department which was built at Greenwich by 1838. He painted a vivid picture of a radical Airy who wasn’t afraid to speak out not only scientifically but politically as well. Airy was instrumental in the obtaining and building of the ‘mag and met’ office at Greenwich. He was also in charge of its ensuring its success and implementing the processes by which it would be run.


After a leisurely lunch the AGM was held. Bob thanked everyone for their hard work over the last year in particularly in promoting and expanding the society to its highest number of members. Amongst other business a new prize was announced. This will be given in honour of Madeline Cox the former chairperson who left a generous bequest to the society. This new prize will be given at the next AGM in 2017, it will be awarded for the best Bulletin article received for issues 26, 27 and 28.


James Dawson was in attendance and was awarded the Roger Jones award by Kevin Johnson for his all his work on the survey during the last year.

The afternoon conference was started by a talk by Dr Mike Leggett who spoke about his research on the Hartwell Synod. The Synod had been centered around Dr Lee’s observatory at Hartwell House. But it extended out to several local observatories which were established in a very small area of the country. The synod included many experienced astronomers such as James Glaisher, Norman Pogson and William R. Birt. Mike has done a large amount of research about the members of the synod and was a wealth of information on the subject.


There were the usual refreshments provided and opportunity for the members and guests to mingle during the afternoon break. Also held was a sale of several duplicate library books. This sale was well received and a total of £390 was taken at the door by the end of the day.


After the afternoon break the final speaker of the day was Dr Allan Chapman. Allan is one of the societies honorary presidents and regular speaker at the AGM. This year he spoke with his usual enthusiasm about Mary Somerville. Mary was a self-taught Scottish lady. She used correspondence and books by people such as Laplace to became one of the leading mathematicians and astronomers of her time. She was awarded membership of the Royal Astronomical Society before women were admitted. Her books were gained several awards across the world. They were particularly readable and went on to become best sellers during her lifetime. Thank you, Allan, for bringing to life this intelligent woman who was at the forefront of science in the 19th century.

We must thank all the speakers for enjoyable and informative talks. Also, to Gerard our membership secretary, for the organisation of the conference. We look forward to seeing you all at either the Paris Observatory trip, or the spring conference which this year will be held at the Institute of Astronomy Cambridge on April 22nd 2017.

Text and Pictures courtesy of Carolyn Kennett.

Members Only Facebook Forum


Interesting telescopes