A PERSONAL HISTORY OF
THE ROYAL GREENWICH OBSERVATORY
AT HERSTMONCEUX CASTLE, 1948-1990

By George A. Wilkins

CHAPTER 2   THE FIRST PHASE OF THE MOVE : 1948-1955

This chapter includes an introductory section 2.1 about the initial moves and about staff matters such as the provision of housing and transport arrangements. There are also brief notes about the conditions of service, such as grading and leave, about the social and sports club, and about the early experiences of the author.

Most of this chapter consists of section 2.2 on the work of H.M. Nautical Almanac Office. Some general notes about the structure and working arrangements are followed by a review of the publications and other activities for astronomy and navigation. The techniques of computation and the calculating facilities that were then in use (before electronic computers were available) are described. Finally, there are sub-sections on a variety of aspects of the work, including participation in the activities of the International Astronomical Union, which played an important role in establishing the arrangements for cooperation between the Office and other similar organisations in other countries.

The later sections describe the work of the other departments that moved to Herstmonceux during this period, including the Solar, Chronometer and Meridian Departments. Then there are notes about the work of other departments, such as the Time Department (at Abinger) and the Astrometry and Astrophysics Department (at Greenwich). Accounts of the slow progress on the construction of the new buildings for telescopes and offices and of the new work on cosmic rays (led by Thomas Gold) follow. Notes on the Castle, gardens and grounds are followed by a review of the role of the Astronomer Royal, Sir Harold Spencer Jones.

2.1 Introduction
2.1.1   The initial moves to Herstmonceux
2.1.2Staff matters: Housing, the hostel and the canteen; Transport arrangements; Grading of staff; Hours and leave; The staff club
2.1.3My early days at Herstmonceux Castle (1951-1955)
2.2 H.M. Nautical Almanac Office (NAO)
2.2.1The place of the NAO in the RGO
2.2.2The structure and basic activities of the NAO
2.2.3General aspects of work in the NAO: Training, Formalities, Services, Cooperation and attribution
2.2.4The astronomical work of the NAO: The fundamental ephemerides; Planetary Co-ordinates; The lunar occultation programme; Apparent Places of Fundamental Stars
2.2.5The navigational and geodetic work of the NAO: The navigational almanacs and tables; Unification of the Almanacs; Decca charts; The Star Almanac for Land Surveyors
2.2.6Computational facilities and procedures: Computers and calculating machines; Mistakes in computations; The National machines; The basic punched-card machines; The IBM 602A calculating punch; The IBM card-controlled typewriter; Thoughts of an electronic computer
2.2.7Other aspects of the work of the Office: Calendarial information; International Astronomical Union; Ephemeris time; Interpolation and Allied Tables; Visits by H.M.S. Dryad; The NAO Library; 'Copies'
2.2.8Participation in external organisations: Royal Astronomical Society; Institute of Navigation
2.3 The Solar and M&M Departments: solar/terrestrial relations
2.3.1The building of the Solar Dome
2.3.2Work of the Solar Department
2.3.3Work in geomagnetism
2.3.4Work in meteorology
2.3.5Relationships with geodesy and geophysics
2.4 The Chronometer Department
2.4.1A brief history of the chronometer work of the RGO
2.4.2The Chronometer Workshop
2.4.3The Chronometer Office
2.5 The Meridian Department
2.5.1The work of the Meridian Department
2.5.2The Meridian Group and the move from Greenwich
2.6 Other departments
2.6.1The Time Department
2.6.2The Astrometry and Astrophysics Department: Observing at Greenwich; Eclipse expeditions; Accommodation at Herstmonceux
2.6.3The Observatory Workshop at Greenwich
2.6.4The General Office
2.6.5The main RGO Library
2.7 Other aspects
2.7.1The design and construction of the new buildings
2.7.2Thomas Gold and the new astronomy
2.7.3The Isaac Newton Observatory
2.7.4The Castle, gardens and grounds
2.7.5The Old Royal Observatory at Greenwich
2.8 The role of the Astronomer Royal
2.8.1The early career of H. S. Jones
2.8.2Spencer Jones as Director of the RGO
2.8.3National offices and honours
2.8.4International activities

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