Space and sky


london population chart.7

(click to enlarge)

Greenwich Observatory isn’t an operational research centre any more; it’s a museum. As the population of London exploded, and with it the levels of light pollution, it became defunct. The work that had taken place over three hundred years moved away, and it became a memorial to the people who had lived there and their discoveries.

As astronomy in London was dying out, so meteorology was picking up. A wave of publications began in the 1800s to look at the puzzles of the weather, which had so far eluded scientific study. Francis Beaufort and Robert FitzRoy were exploring and analysing the weather; in Tottenham, Luke Howard was diligently recording the conditions from day to day, and producing beautiful graphic illustrations of his observations. Artists like Constable and Goethe were inspired by these new developments as for the first time Linnaean principles were being applied to the ephemeral weather.


The hill on which Greenwich Observatory stands still offers remarkable views – perhaps not of the stars, but certainly of the sky. And there’s no public place – no museum, no visitor centres – dedicated to celebrating meteorology. Perhaps there should be.