Pay 1946–1998

The subject of pay at the Observatory becomes increasingly complex from the nineteenth century onwards. Although there is information in the various archives about the amounts individuals were paid on certain specific dates, information about the overarching pay structures, pay ranges and dates when they were introduced are less well documented – particularly in the twentieth century. When it has been possible to work out the date ranges over which the various pay scales apply, they have been given, when not, spot values are given instead. Restructuring of the pay scales took place in 1871, 1896, 1912, the mid 1930s and 1946.  References to relevant archive files are given in brackets: RGO (Royal Greenwich Observatory Archive at Cambridge); ADM, WORK and T (former Admiralty and Treasury files at the Public Record Office Kew), MS (Royal Society).

This page should be read in conjunction with the pages pages listed below:

Background information
Pay of the Astronomers Royal & Directors, 1675-1998
Pay 1675–1811
Pay 1811–1835
Pay 1836–1871
Pay 1871–1945



By the end of 1945, the war was over, but the observatory staff remained depleted and scattered. Several of the domes at Greenwich had been damaged and were permanently out of action and the site of the Observatory’s new permanent home had been more or less settled. But Greenwich was not alone with its problems, and in September that year, the Government published a white paper: The Scientific Civil Service, Reorganisation and Recruitment during the Reconstruction Period. It built on the work of the Carpenter Committee and the later Barlow Committee. One of its aims was to unify the different ad hoc arrangements and conditions of service that existed across different Government Departments.

To this end, three classes of worker were created. In order of seniority they were:

Scientific Officer Class:

Scientific Officer (SO), Senior Scientific Officer (SSO), Principal Scientific Officer (PSO), Senior Principal Scientific Officer (SPSO) , Deputy Chief Scientific Officer (DCSO) , and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO).

Experimental Officer Class:

Assistant Experimental Officer (AEO), Experimental Officer (EO), Senior Experimental Officer (SEO) and Chief Experimental Officer (CEO).

Scientific Assistant Class:

Assistant (Scientific) (AS), Senior Assistant (Scientific) (SAS)


Experimental officer posts were intended for university graduates and to provide support staff for Scientific Officers. The Scientific Assistant posts were intended to undertake the bulk of the routine work and required a qualification at General Schools Certificate level (later O-level). Under the new regime, the pay scales were to be between five and nine percent higher in London than the provinces and women were to be paid a lower rate ‘in accordance with civil service practice’.

But although the Observatory was the country’s oldest government funded scientific institution, it was not included amongst the establishments to which the Carpenter Committee’s recommendations were applied. Both Junior Assistant grades at the Observatory had been linked to clerical grades in the Civil Service, reflecting the fact that they were recruited from people with no basic training in science. Disastrously, this was reflected in the new staffing structure about to be imposed, and if implemented, would have meant some of the Head’s of Department – those who had risen up from the ranks of Boy Computer – were technically unqualified to do the job! Spencer Jones asked for the Observatory posts to be regraded so that the basic posts could be recruited at a higher and more appropriate level. This was important not only for the future of the Observatory, as it ventured into new areas of research, but also the future of Astronomy in Britain since the Observatory was likely to be one of the few potential employers for future research graduates from the Universities. In the meantime, the uncertainty over job gradings created recruitment difficulties, the existing salaries being inferior to those in other establishments.

It took until 1949 for the proper reorganization of the Royal Observatory staff to be authorized, although even then, matters of detail had still to be settled in a number of cases. The grades were assimilated as follows:  

Observatory Staff

Old Grade                                             New Grade

Astronomer Royal                                 Chief Scientific Officer
Chief Assistant                                     Senior Principal Scientific Officer
Assistant (all Heads of Department)        Principal Scientific Officer
Junior Assistants (Higher Grade)            Senior Experimental Officer
Junior Assistants                                  Most as Experimental Officers*

*One was regraded Assistant (Scientific) and another as Clerical Assistant          


Nautical Almanac Staff 

Old Grade                                             New Grade

Superintendent (Chief Assistant)             Senior Principal Scientific Officer
Assistant                                              Principal Scientific Officer
Junior Assistants (Higher Grade)             Senior Experimental Officer
Junior Assistants                                   Experimental Officers


The 1946 Scientific Civil Service pay scales

Grade London Provinces

CSO £2000 £1900
DCSO £1600–£1800 (x £50) £1500–£1700 (x £50)
SPSO £1200–£1400 (x £50) £1100–£1300 (x £50)
PSO £800–£1100 (x £30) £750–£1020 (x £30)
SSO £550–£750 (x £25) £520–£710 (x £25)
SO £275–£500 (x £25 to £400 on confirmation of appointment) £255–£470 (x £25 to £370 on confirmation of appointment)
£600–£800 (x£25) £570–£720 (x £25)
£400–£550 (x £18) £370–£520 (x £18)
£150–£350 (x £15 to £195, then x £18)   £140–£320 (x£15 to £185, then x £18)


In accordance with normal Civil Service practice, Women were paid at a lower rate. The Civil Service War bonus which varied from 13s 6d a week at age 19 to £60 a year at age 21 and over (£48 for women) was also paid to those on salaries of less than £1500. Also allowable was the night observing bonus.

There were considerable delays (into 1949) in negotiating with the Admiralty how the posts at the Observatory were to be regraded. The Assimilation was backdated to 1 Jan 1946. The Admiralty had proposed to grade the Astronomer Royal as a DCSO, but were eventually persuaded to put him on the CSO scale and at the higher of the two rates fixed rates that were available.

References: Various, including The Scientific Civil Service White Paper 1945


Pre Chorley  (1950) scales for men – still applied in Feb & May 1950




£1320-£1520 (x£50)

£950-£1250 (x£30 to £1100, then x £35)

£700-£900 (x£25)  



Rates for women were lower

“When an officer on London rates transfers to Provinces, he retains his present salary until he reaches the Provincial maximum. If he is already receiving more than the Provincial maximum, he reverts to that amount”.


Pay 1836–1871