Jun 222019

1 Hillside Crescent, Edinburgh, EH7 5DY; marked with a blue plaque

1 Hillside Crescent (with a blue plaque)

Thomas Henderson (1798-1844) became the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland in 1834. He was also appointed Regius Professor of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh and worked at the nearby Calton Hill Observatory until his death. His scientific achievements include the calculation of the parallax of a fixed star (the angle describing the difference in the position of a star on the night sky as measured six months apart), leading him to be the first person to measure the distance to Alpha Centauri, one of a group of nearest stars to the Sun. Unfortunately, delaying the publication of his results led to German astronomer Friedrich Bessel and Russian astronomer Friedrich Struve receiving credit for first measuring stellar parallaxes. Throughout his time in Edinburgh, he lived at 1 Hillside Crescent and is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard (very near the memorial in stop number 13 on this tour).

Thomas Henderson

Thomas Henderson’s memorial/graveside at Greyfriars Kirkyard

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Jun 222019

Colin MacLaurin Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3DW

Mary Brück

This building at the University of Edinburgh Kings Buildings science campus honours the astronomer and historian of science Mary Brück (1925-2008), who graduated with a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1950. She returned in 1962 with the appointment of her husband, Hermann Brück, to the post of the Astronomer Royal for Scotland at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. She carried out research into stars, the gas and dust between stars and the Magellanic Clouds, while also doing historical research on women in astronomy and the history of astronomy in Scotland and her native Ireland. She published articles in several different journals and collaborated with her husband on a biography of the 19th-century Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smyth. In 2018, the Mary Brück building was opened on Colin MacLaurin Road, itself dedicated to an 18th century champion of Astronomy in Edinburgh (whose memorial is visited as stop number 13 of this tour).

Find out more

Mary Brück Building and Brucks’ Cafe

Images credit: The University of Edinburgh / Royal Observatory Edinburgh

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Apr 032019

16 Chambers Street today

16 Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1HS

On the 8th January 1918, the first lecture for the Edinburgh School of Social Study and training was held, with 11 students enrolled for the diploma class and five others for single classes. The opening of the school followed the opening of a similar school in Glasgow in 1911. Initially, three courses were offered: Social Ethics, Social Economics, and Personal and Public Hygiene. The School officially became part of the University of Edinburgh in 1928, under the direction of Dr. Nora Milnes. Nowadays, the department of Social Work at the university is one of the most respected centres for social work education in the UK and offers a range of educational opportunities at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Photo credit: Ema Smekalova

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Jan 152019
Granton Harbour wall in the distance and the outlying rock beds

Granton Harbour wall in the distance and the outlying rock beds

Walking Path, West Shore Road, Edinburgh EH5 1QG

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and entered Edinburgh University to study medicine in 1825. Interested in natural history, he joined the Plinian Society, a University student club, and collected specimens along the shores of the Firth of Forth. The book The Berwick and Lothian Coasts, by Ian Campbell Hannah (1913), refers to Darwin and notes that, About this point the coast again becomes rocky, and Charles Darwin found it a convenient spot for the study of seaweed and shells.” In 1859, a little over two decades after he started university, Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species would be published and go on to become a worldwide bestseller.

Charles Darwin. Photo taken in 1868 by Julia Margaret Cameron

Charles Darwin. Photo taken by Julia Margaret Cameron during the Darwin family’s 1868 holiday in her Isle of Wight cottage

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