Founded on June 29, 2002 at Wadham College, Oxford, by writer and local historian Stuart Williams and well-known astronomy historian Dr. Allan Chapman of Wadham College, with the able assistance of amateur astronomer and historian Ken Goward, FRAS, the SHA is now well-established as the UK’s national society dedicated to the specialised, but ever-fascinating field of the history of astronomy.
Governed by its elected Council which works in co-operation with a number of appointed Officers and the Members at large, the SHA offers the following facilities:
Each year, the SHA organises two conferences in the Spring and the Autumn (the latter incorporating the Annual General Meeting). The Spring Conference is often a Joint Meeting with another like-minded organisation, and takes place at various venues, typically Greenwich, Cambridge and Manchester. The Autumn Conference takes place at the Birmingham & Midland Institute, where the SHA’s Sir Robert Ball Library is based, close to the end of October. In addition our Summer Picnic is an informal social event, usually at a place of astronomical interest, and occasionally we also add a slightly more formal Summer Outing. Admission to meetings (apart from the AGM itself) is normally at extra cost to membership.
The Society’s Survey of Astronomical History is a core element of its work and the primary reason for its founding. The late SHA Councillor Roger Jones was its founding Co-ordinator, his successor from July 2015 is Kevin Johnson). The Survey aims to reveal the depth of local history of astronomy in particular, across the UK, and is housed online and in the SHA’s library in Birmingham. For more details, see the main menu link to the separate Survey website.
Based at the Birmingham and Midland Institute (www.bmi.org.uk) the SHA’s Sir Robert Ball Library includes both extensive reference collections, books, journals etc and a lending library (the Sir Patrick Moore Lending Collection, formerly the Sir Patrick Moore Library), staffed by volunteer librarians and overseen by a Library Committee. The Library Service is currently administered by Librarian Stuart Williams (who will be retiring at the end of March 2016).
Access to the Sir Robert Ball Library is currently by arrangement only but it is hoped to open regularly on at least a monthly basis from 2016- see the Library page for details and a brief history of the Library.
The SHA’s Archive is based at the Library of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, under the supervision of Institute Librarian and SHA Archivist Mark Hurn. It seeks to preserve a record of the Society and of members’ work and to encourage the deposit of original research materials at appropriate record offices.
The SHA produces a range of publications which are all benefits of membership:
The SHA e-News a quarterly electronic newsletter containing news and announcements, is distributed by email in pdf format and will in future be available for download on this website. Edited by David Sellers.
The SHA Bulletin (formerly the ‘SHA Newsletter’) is a substantial at least once yearly printed publication containing non time-dependent news, reviews, articles, in-depth meeting reports and letters, sent to members in Spring and Autumn). Edited by Carolyn Kennet and Len Adam.
The Antiquarian Astronomer is our acclaimed annual peer-reviewed printed journal of members’ original research, offering a mix of history of local, national and international significance. Our flagship publication, it is edited by Ian Ridpath.
The SHA Website is also seen as a showcase publication, and was edited by the SHA’s Online Editor, Stuart Williams. It was taken over at the 2015 AGM by John W. Chuter, who will be operational in the very near future. A separate but linked and equally important SHA Survey website was set up and edited by founding Survey Co-ordinator Roger Jones, but has now been taken over by the new co-ordinator Kevin Johnson.
All our publications aim to meet high standards whether they be popular or academic, printed or online, as appropriate.
The SHA participates in events dedicated to ‘grass roots’ astronomy, and has fielded stands at the British Astronomical Association Exhibition Meetings, Federation of Astronomical Societies Conferences, Leeds AstroMeets and Orwell Astronomical Society events since its foundation. These public appearances have and will continue in similar vein as time and personnel availability permits, and we look forward to making many more new friends around the UK as a result.
The SHA is delighted to be affiliated to the Royal Astronomical Society and the Birmingham & Midland Institute. We also maintain cordial relations with the British Astronomical Association, its Historical Section, the Society for Popular Astronomy and the British Sundial Society. We aim to foster cordial relations with all national, regional and local groups with a common interest. We welcome contact with any such group and a number are Institutional Members of the SHA.
For your interest and information, you are welcome to download a copy of the SHA’s constitution via the following link:
You are invited to download our general triform leaflet and our current programme leaflet, both in pdf form, via the following links:
If you do not already have a pdf reader installed on your computer, follow the next link to download Adobe Acrobat Reader, free of charge:
The Society for the History of Astronomy does not rest on its laurels. We exist to help collect, preserve and make available astronomy’s history for posterity, and look to the future with great anticipation and enthusiasm. New members of course continue to be very welcome, whether in the UK or beyond our shores!
The Council of the SHA