Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

History of Astronomy Group Meeting: ‘Ripples in time: The building of Greenwich Power Station and the unintended consequences for the Royal Observatory’

March 6, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Built in two phases by the London County Council for the supply of electricity to their tramways, construction of Greenwich Power Station began in 1902. Sited just half a mile from the Royal Observatory and exactly on the line of the Greenwich Meridian, the vibrations it created posed a serious threat to the effective operation of the Observatory’s most important telescope, the Airy Transit Circle. Not only did this telescope define the Greenwich Meridian, it was also the ultimate source of Greenwich Mean Time.

Curiously, no one associated with the Observatory was formally consulted about the siting of the Power Station. Even more curious, despite the fact that it was being built right under his nose, William Christie, the Astronomer Royal, only started to raise objections in 1905, just as phase one was nearing completion. On 30 May 1906, he shared his concerns with the Observatory’s Board of Visitors at their annual meeting. By this time, phase one was largely up and running, having been officially opened just a few days earlier on Saturday 25 May.

As was the norm, details of the Visitors’ meeting were reported in the press. In the ensuing weeks, numerous follow-up articles about the impact of the Power Station on the Observatory were published and questions asked in Parliament. A Parliamentary inquiry rapidly ensued.

In this lecture, Graham Dolan will explore how the Power Station came to be built on the Meridian and why it was potentially so devastating for the Observatory. As well as looking at how the standoff was resolved, he will also explore the scientific and legal arguments that were prepared had litigation been required.


Buy tickets




Please do not book a place on this event if you are not a member of the society. Your booking will be cancelled if your name does not appear on our membership database.


March 6, 2018
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Event Categories:


Royal Observatory Greenwich
Blackheath Avenue
Greenwich, Greater London SE10 8XJ
+ Google Map