The history of
of the Subject
Falls in Wales
THE HISTORY OF ASTRONOMY IN WALES
A number of local astronomical societies have existed in Wales during the 20th century, serving the interests of amateur astronomers in various regions.
However, of all the societies in Wales, perhaps the most important was the Astronomical Society of Wales, which existed between 1895 and c.1914. It represented people interested in astronomy across Wales, publishing a regular journal or magazine containing articles and presenting observations.
The Astronomical Society of Wales, 1895-c.1914
The society was founded at the beginning of 1895, following a preliminary meeting in Cardiff in December 1894 and a preliminary issue of its future Journal. Arthur Mee became the first president, later becoming editor of the Journal. The Society held its meetings in Cardiff, but initially attempted to ensure that it had representation across Wales by appointing sixteen Vice-Presidents, from various parts of the country.
The Society arranged regular meetings with talks covering a wide range of astronomical subjects at a level accessible to the amateur community. It held a considerable number of books in Cardiff, depositing them in the Cardiff Free Library.
The Society published a Journal between 1895 and 1897, monthly in 1895 and 1896, which was very professional in appearance. The journal was sent to scientific institutes and observatories across the world, indicating the high level of ambition among the members. Publication of the Journal was suspended and it was replaced in 1898 by the Cambrian Natural Observer, which was intended to appeal to a wider audience than the Journal alone by including nature and meteorological notes. The Cambrian Natural Observer continued to be published, sometimes monthly, sometimes quarterly, sometimes annually, up to 1910. The Journal of the Astronomial Society of Wales was eventually reinstated in 1912 and 1913, but as an annual publication. These publications contained accounts of members' observations and items of popular astronomical interest. Arthur Mee acted as editor throughout.
As time passed, the emphasis of its activities in Cardiff showed itself by a declining proportion of members in North and Mid Wales. Towards its end, the majority of members were found in the region around Cardiff. Silas Evans (see below) quotes Arthur Mee as stating that the Society came to an end with the First World War, about twenty years after its foundation.
Silas Evans provided a paragraph about the Astronomical Society of Wales in Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr. The account, on pages 279-280, reads,
Dylid crybwll yn awr am Gymdeithas Seryddol Cymru, ac wele ychydig o hanes ei sylfaeniad gan Mr. Mee. "Pan ddeuthum i Gaerdydd gyntaf gofynnais i un o seryddwyr mwyaf adnabyddus Caerdydd a fuasai yn bosibl sefydlu Cymdeithas Seryddol yno. Ofnai hwnnw ei bod yn amhosibl. Ychydig yn ddiweddarach, daeth Mr. Norman Lattey ataf i ymgynhori ymhellach ar y pwnc, gyda'r canlyniad i ni alw cyfarfod yn niwedd 1894, a ffurfiwyd y gymdeithas. Daeth y boneddwr a ofnai nad oedd yn bosibl ei sefydlu yn un o'i llwyddion. Yn ddiweddarach, rhifau yr aelodau 200. Daeth i defyniad gyda'r rhyfel."
Rhys Morris's translation of Silas Evans's words is as follows:
The Astronomical Society of Wales should be mentioned now, and here is some of the history of its founding by Mr Mee. "When I first came to Cardiff, I asked one of Cardiff's most eminent astronomers whether it would be possible to found an Astronomical Society there. He feared it would be impossible. A little later, Mr. Norman Lattey came to me to enquire further on the subject, with the result that we called a meeting at the end of 1894, and the Society was formed. The gentleman who feared the society could not be formed became one of its presidents. Later its membership numbered 200. It came to an end with the war."
A photograph of the Moon published by the Astronomical Society of Wales. The caption read, "THE MOON, photographed by G. Parry Jenkins, 16 in. Reflector, Feb. 14, 1891." (From The Amateur Observer's Almanac, 1896, which was edition number 1 of volume 2 of the Journal of the A.S.W., January 1896.)
Some membership lists of the Astronomical Society of Wales are available.
Astronomical Societies 1920 - 1960
Silas Evans in Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr records the existence of the following societies at the time of publication in 1923:
There was a Cardiff and District Astronomical Society in the late
The Swansea Astronomical Society was formed in 1948 and continues to flourish today.
At the end of the 1950s there was a Monmouth Astronomical Society.
Former Astronomical Societies of the Late 20th Century
Although the emphasis of these pages is on the history of astronomy in Wales in the period up to the middle of the 20th century, it might be appropriate to record a few societies from the last few decades which are now defunct.
An account is available about defunct astronomical societies of the late 20th century.
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