Zero Meridian – Royal Greenwich Observatory 1675

Was your ancestor living in England at the time the Royal Greenwich Observatory was established?

On June 22, 1675, Charles II of England established the Royal Greenwich Observatory.  The original observatory is the ‘home to world time’, as the zero meridian, from which longitude is measured, passes through it.  The Observatory contains  one of the world’s largest collections of objects relating to time measurement, the history of astronomy and of ocean navigation over the last three hundred years.

Before the establishment of the Royal Observatory, Charles II was approached by a Frenchman who claimed he discovered a way for sea captains to establish their longitude when crossing the oceans. As this was a period of great sea exploration, the longitude problem was an important one to solve. Astronomer  John Flamsteed was invited to join a Royal Commission to study the problem, using astronomical data to test the methods.  Flamsteed discovered that the current astronomical tables were of insufficient accuracy for the Frenchman’s method to work, however King Charles decided to employ Flamsteed and build a Royal Observatory.

Astronomer Royal at Royal Greenwich Observatory

Flamsteed became  the first Astronomer Royal. He then devoted himself to astronomical measurement, while taking on the responsibility for  equipping and developing the observatory.  Flamsteed served in his position for 44 years,  during which time he saw astronomy emerge from the  Middle Ages and take on a modern mathematical form.

Among Flamsteed’s most valuable work  was the proof that Earth rotates at a uniform rate, thus establishing that astronomical observations can form the basis for navigation.  Upon Flamsteed’s death,  comet discoverer Edmond Halley became the second Astronomer Royal.

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