Public lectures to mark 250th anniversary of Regius Chair of Astronomy

Published: 30 March 2010

The 250th anniversary of the Regius Chair of Astronomy at the University of Glasgow is being celebrated with a week of public lectures in April.

The 250th anniversary of the Regius Chair of Astronomy at the University of Glasgow is being celebrated with a week of public lectures in April 12-16 as part of the 2010 Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) UK National Astronomy Meeting.

The lectures are being held to mark the creation of the Royal Appointment by King George III in 1760.

The events begin on Monday 12 April from 8.30pm until 11pm, with a relaxed talk and question-and-answer session in The Admiral pub at 72a Waterloo Street on the subject of alien life hosted by Professor Fred Watson, astronomer in charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory, assisted by Prof John Brown, 10th Regius Professor and 10th Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Dr Martin Hendry and Dr Fiona Speirits of the University of Glasgow. This event has very limited remaining capacity .

Prof Brown hosts his own lecture, jointly with Dr Lucie Green (University College London) the following evening, Tuesday 13 April at 7.30pm. The professor, who is also a qualified magician, will perform amazing magic tricks which help demonstrate ‘the magic of the sun and stars’, culminating in two spectacular illusions involving power tools and a brave assistant.

On Wednesday 14 April at 7.30pm, the BBC’s Sky at Night co-presenter Dr Chris Lintott will deliver a talk about a project which is enlisting the help of ordinary people around the world to help classify galaxies.

And on Thursday 15 April from 7.30pm, Dr Jim Wild, a lecturer in space plasma environment at the University of Lancaster, will present the space weather looking at how the sun affects weather and climate on earth.

All lectures will be in the Kelvin Building, room 257 (Building B8 on map). To avoid disappointment prior booking at is recommended.

The week will culminate on Friday with a special schools poster session from 12 noon to 2pm where children from schools in West Dunbartonshire and South Lanarkshire present their projects which researched sunspots, solar activity and the link between these and the earth’s climate.

The position of Regius Professor of Astronomy was first held by Professor Alexander Wilson, from 1760 to 1784 who was elected Clerk of Senate in 1771,

Wilson was born in St Andrews in 1714 and graduated from the University there in 1733. As Regius Professor of Astronomy at Glasgow he was responsible for the Old College observatory at Dowanhill and he conducted serious studies of the movements of the planets. In 1769 he noticed changes in the shape of sunspots near the edge of the sun’s visible disk that became known as the Wilson Effect. He was also a founder member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

From 1 April through May, the Hunterian Museum has a display of Wilson artefacts and an eight-poster display by Prof Brown concerning Wilson and facets of the history of astronomy in Scotland.

Professor Brown said: “Astronomy continues to fascinate mankind and in the 250 years since Alexander Wilson took up the first Regius Professorship at Glasgow we have vastly increased our knowledge of the universe.

“However, there is still so much to learn and discover and we need to ensure that the next generation is interested and enthused by astronomy and wants to further uncover the mysteries of space.”

For more information contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email

First published: 30 March 2010

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