The Observatory

Edinburgh’s first Royal Observatory sits on Calton Hill near the city centre. In the late 1800s a proposal to abolish it was put before the House of Lords, but Lord Lindsay (Earl of Crawford) said “It shall not be!” He donated scientific equipment and his priceless collection of scientific books to allow the establishment of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh on Blackford Hill.

The observatory’s Crawford Collection still houses Lord Lindsay’s donated books and manuscripts. The collection contains a copy of the first edition of almost every important book in the history of astronomy and related fields, including works by Newton and Galileo.

The observatory building was finished in 1896, and included laboratories, offices, and a library. The two copper covered, rotatable domes housed state-of-the-art equipment for studying the night sky. The telescopes here were used by professional astronomers for scientific research all the way through to the 1970s. The observatory building is now A-listed as an outstanding example of its kind and an important part of the local and national heritage.