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Assistants at the Royal Observatory

Introduction
Professional Assistants
Women computers
Job for life
Cambridge men
Social life
Wartime
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Social life

Originally, Observatory assistants were firmly discouraged from taking part in any activity that took them away from their work, be it writing for an academic magazine or meeting their friends in the pub.  By the late 19th century however all employees were given the opportunity to take part in a whole range of leisure activities, provided of course they were carried out through Observatory-run clubs and sports teams.

Royal Observatory Camera Club c. 1910

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Royal Observatory Camera Club c. 1910
By the beginning of the 20th century the observatory had become a far more sociable place than it had been at the beginning of the 19th when the assistants and computers (calculating staff) were referred to as ‘mere drudges’. Staff were encouraged to socialise and numerous clubs were formed including this camera club.

Royal Observatory Hockey Club, 1896-97.

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Royal Observatory Hockey Club, 1896-97.
The photograph shows the Royal Observatory Hockey club in 1896-97. William Henry Mahoney Christie, the Astronomer Royal and the club’s president, is in the centre sitting down. Chief Assistant Frank Dyson, then team captain and later Christie's successor as Astronomer Royal, is in the front left wearing a white jumper. The team was made up of staff from across the Observatory and included WV Woodman, the foreman of the workshop (who built and repaired some of the Observatory’s apparatus) and several observing and computing staff.
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Royal Observatory Hockey Club, 1927-28

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Royal Observatory Hockey Club, 1927-28
The Royal Observatory Hockey Club team in 1927-28. Frank Dyson, the Astronomer Royal and president of the club, is seated in the centre.

Royal Observatory Hockey Club, 1934-5.

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Royal Observatory Hockey Club, 1934-5.
The photograph shows the Royal Observatory Hockey club in 1934-5 with Richard van der Riet Woolley at the centre. Woolley had just started work at the Observatory as Chief Assistant (deputy to the Astronomer Royal). He left in 1937 only to return in 1956 as Astronomer Royal.
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Introduction
Professional Assistants
Women computers
Job for life
Cambridge men
Social life
Wartime
*
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Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

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Find out more
StoriesGreenwich and the story of time
Find out why Greenwich is the home of Mean Time and the Prime Meridian
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Stories'The Centre of Time and Space'
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TrailMeridian Trail
Follow the Meridian Line trail through Greenwich Park.
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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