Fame, fortune, misery, disaster… The lives and times of the Royal Observatory’s nineteenth century Assistants and Computers

Flamsteed Society Lecture, 10 May 2016


This page is intended to support a lecture given by Graham Dolan to the Flamsteed Society at Greenwich. 



Links to Individuals

William Richardson

William Rogerson

John Charles Henderson

Charles Todd

James Glaisher

E. Walter Maunder

John Hartnup


Links relating to different grades and pay

Overview – a guide to grading and staffing structures

The Assistant grades

The post of Computer

The Superintendent posts




Housing – a guide to who lived where between 1822 and 1910



Different funding sources and the Navy Estimates


Archives to visit
Greenwich Heritage Centre

Holding the collections of the former Borough Museum and the Greenwich Local History Library, the Greenwich Heritage Centre was transferred to the newly formed Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust in the summer of 2014. The Centre holds a variety of material connected to the Observatory, from photographs and postcards, to its rare copy of the “pirated” edition of Flamsteed’s Historia Coelestis Libri Duo which was published in 1712 and is especially important as, unusually, it contains nine of the rare Francis Place Etchings which date from around 1676.

Greenwich Heritage Centre


Royal Society

Located in Central London, The Royal Society holds a number of important manuscripts relating to the pre 1830 period – particularly DM5, MS371, MS372 and MS600. It was also published Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society, in which many of the earlier Astronomers Royal published their papers. They can be downloaded via the links below.

Catalogue (Library and Archive)
Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society (1665-1886)
Philosophical transactions A of the Royal Society of London (1887-Present)
Notes and Records of the Royal Society


The National Archives

The National Archives at Kew is the repository for the archived records formerly held by government departments. It holds a considerable number of files relating to the Observatory, many of which are complementary to the Observatory’s own archive at Cambridge. Relevant departments include the: Admiralty, Ministry of Works (and its predecessor bodies), Treasury, Department for Education & Science as well as the Privy Council, Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister’s Office.