The Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope: History and heritage

Ian S. Glass

The Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope has been part of Cape Town for nearly two hundred years. It is the oldest scientific institution in South Africa, if not in all of Africa. Now the headquarters of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), it is treasured for its science as well as for its special architecture.

The extensive SAAO collections of instruments and historical images have been drawn upon to present a vivid account from its foundation in 1820 to the present day. Outlined are the Observatory’s history, buildings, astronomical achievements, conservation and heritage issues and its natural setting between the Liesbeek and Black rivers.

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Author information: Ian Glass was born in Ireland and educated at Trinity College Dublin and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has lived in Cape Town since 1971 and has worked for most of his career at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), specialising in the infrared. He is the author of several other books: Victorian Telescope Makers: The lives and letters of Thomas and Howard Grubb (1997), Handbook of Infrared Astronomy (1999), Revolutionaries of the Cosmos – the Astro-Physicists (2006), Proxima, the Nearest Star Other than the Sun (2008), and Nicolas-Louis de La Caille, Astronomer and Geodesist (2013).

Copyright notice: Glass, I.S. (2018) The Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope: History and heritage. 2nd edition. Mons Mensa, Cape Town. Distributed with the author’s permission, for personal use only, via the Centre for Astronomical Heritage (CfAH).

Protecting South Africa’s astronomical heritage

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