People who have held the title Astronomer Royal in the UK

Posted in People

Astronomer Royal is a senior post in the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. There are two officers, the senior being the Astronomer Royal dating from 22 June 1675, and the second the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, which dates from 1834.

King Charles II, who founded the Royal Observatory Greenwich in 1675 instructed the first Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed, "to apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying of the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting of the art of navigation."

From that time until 1972 the Astronomer Royal was Director of the Royal Observatory Greenwich. As Astronomer Royal he receives a stipend of £100 a year and is a member of the Royal Household, under the general authority of the Lord Chamberlain. After the separation of the two offices the position of Astronomer Royal has been largely honorary, though he remains available to advise the Sovereign on astronomical and related scientific matters, and the office is of great prestige.

There was also formerly an astronomer royal for Ireland known as the Royal Astronomer of Ireland.

Rev'd John Flamsteed 1675 – 1719
Professor Edmond Halley 1720 – 1742
Dr James Bradley 1742 – 1762
Nathaniel Bliss 1762 – 1764
Rev'd Nevil Maskelyne 1765 – 1811
John Pond 1811 – 1835
Sir George Biddell Airy 1835 – 1881
Sir William Christie 1881 – 1910
Sir Frank Dyson 1910 – 1933
Sir Harold Spencer Jones 1933 – 1955
Professor Sir Richard van der Riet Woolley 1956 – 1971
Professor Sir Martin Ryle 1972 – 1982
Professor Sir Francis Graham-Smith 1982 – 1990
Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale 1991 – 1995
Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow 1995 – present day

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