Crawford Observatory

(Est. 1878)

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Constructed in 1878, the Crawford Observatory remains the only observatory on any university campus in Ireland. Funded in part by local businessman William Horatio Crawford and the Duke of Devonshire, the observatory was designed by Howard Grubb, one of the foremost scientific instrument makers of the 19th century: Grubb also designed and constructed all of the instruments and clocks for the observatory. These include an Equatorial Telescope, a Transit Circle and a Siderostatic Telescope. Howard Grubb was proud of his achievements in Cork and detailed the many improvements he first introduced there in an article published by the Royal Dublin Society. Amongst the innovations were:

  • A telescope mounting that allowed uninterrupted viewing of all objects south of the zenith and above the horizon.
  • A new form of telescope drive controlled by electrical impulses from a pendulum clock.
  • A telescope on the siderostatic principle which is one of the earliest of its type.
  • A duplex micrometer (only one other existed).
  • A transit circle that employed circular glass scales, probably the first such use of glass scales in an astronomical or surveying instrument (they are now ubiquitous).
  • A novel shutter mechanism for the transit instrument superior to any used previously.

All in all, the Crawford Observatory is a monument to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of its builders and is of exceptional interest both for the history of the sciences in Ireland and for the technological achievements it incorporates.

In 2006 the observatory was re-opened by the Minister for Education and Science after a successful restoration.