RepositorySpecial Collections Archives (GB 0029)
Ref NoEUL MS 72
Datec 1913-1990s
Extent70 boxes approx, 1 file (approximately 15 metres)
TitleNorman Lockyer Observatory papers
DescriptionThe collection includes the working papers of the Observatory and research papers of members of staff. Financial records and annual reports are included, but some financial records are also held with the University of Exeter's own financial papers.

Further records have been added to the collection including a note by Francis McClean on the foundation of the Norman Lockyer Observatory, n.d.; papers relating to the Sidmouth District Astronomical Society, 1970s-1990s;NLO Society newsletters, booklets on the history of the NLO written by Society members, reports and offprints, and official papers and correspondence from the NLO, 1920s-1990s.
Admin HistorySir Joseph Norman Lockyer (1836-1920), astronomer, was one of the pioneers of astronomical spectroscopy and became one of the most influential astronomers of his time. His main interest was sun spectroscopy, which led him to discover helium independently of Pierre Janssen, a scientist who posited its existence in the same year. He was born in Rugby in 1836, the only son of a surgeon-apothecary, Joseph Hooley Lockyer and was educated privately in England and he also studied languages on the Continent. At the age of twenty-one became a clerk in the War Office, and married Winifred James in the following year. He developed interests in astronomy and journalism, and in 1863 began to give scientific papers to the Royal Astronomical Society. He proceeded to push back the frontiers of spectroscopy and science, discovering the theoretical existence of helium (a chemical not then known on Earth), and was awarded a medal by the French Academy of Sciences in the same year for developing a new technique to observe solar prominences at times other than eclipses.

The Norman Lockyer Observatory was begun by Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer as The Hill Observatory in 1912. Following the completion of building work at the site at Salcombe Regis, near Sidmouth, Devon, solar work commenced in 1913 using the Kensington telescope which had been brought from the observatory in South Kensington, London. The Observatory was officially established as a charitable trust in 1916, and was renamed in Lockyer's honour in the year after his death by his family, who continued to play an important role in the running of the observatory.

Following a generous endowment from Robert Mond, the Observatory was established as a centre of astronomical excellence, and later became The Norman Lockyer Observatory Corporation of the University of Exeter (University College of the South West of England until 1955). The principal telescopes were donated by Lockyer and by Francis McLean, who had originally suggested the building of the obser
vatory. A further telescope was donated by Robert Mond in 1932.

Lockyer's son Dr W J S (James) Lockyer held the post of Director from 1920 until his own early death in 1936, when he was succeeded by the assistant astronomer D L Edwards. After the Second World War, additional funds were provided by the University College of the South West of England (now the University of Exeter), and enabled the Observatory to continue operations. Donald Edwards died in 1956 and his assistant D R Barber continued astronomical work until his retirement in 1961. The site was then used for various geophysical observations until it was sold to East Devon District Council in 1986. The Council then refurbished the site (including the Frank McLean telescope), and the Observatory was reopened in 1989 for operation jointly by the Sidmouth Astronomical and Radio Societies, who merged to form the newly extended Norman Lockyer Observatory in 1995. A lending library is located at the Observatory, and some book and archive materials are also held temporarily at the University of Exeter Library pending the provision of permanent storage facilities at the Observatory.
Access StatusOpen
Related MaterialThere are seven collections relating to Norman Lockyer and the Norman Lockyer Observatory at Exeter. 1. EUL MS 72, the papers of the observatory; 2. EUL MS 110, the correspondence and papers of Sir Norman Lockyer from the observatory; 3. EUL MS 114, papers on loan from the Royal Astronomical Society relating to Lockyer; 4. EUL MS 128, papers relating to the Norman Lockyer Observatory; 5. EUL MS 186, papers by Lockyer or relating to him from Sid Vale Heritage Centre; 6. EUL MS 236, letters to Sir Norman Lockyer; 7. EUL MS 246, Papers relating to the Norman Lockyer Observatory (University of Exeter).

Other papers of Lockyer's are held at the following repositories: Royal Astronomical Society Library; Royal Geographic Society; Imperial College Archives; British Library and Cambridge University Library. Other papers relating to the Norman Lockyer Observatory are held at the University of Leicester (Special Collections).
Access ConditionsUsual EUL arrangements apply.
Finding_AidsNot available online. A detailed handlist compiled by Dr George Wilkins, 2005-2006, is available, revised by Charlotte Berry, Jan 2007. A shorter list by Ian Mortimer, 2002, is also available.
Creator_NameNorman Lockyer Observatory (1912-); of Sidmouth, Devon
Mgt_GroupScientific papers
University of Exeter papers
DS/UK/212Norman Lockyer Observatory; 1912-1912-
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