Reference numberNLB/16/902
Alternative reference numberNLB/16 p499-504
TitleCopy memorandum as to the effect of an electric tramway upon the Kew Observatory
Date[29 June 1898]
DescriptionKew Observatory is situated in the Old Deer Park, Richmond and the present building was erected by King George III in 1769. In 1841 the government transferred the Observatory to the British Association, but since 1871 it has been under the management of a Committee appointed by the Royal Society.

It is the principal magnetic observatory in the United Kingdom and recordings have been taken since 1856 by photography. The apparatus is very delicate and future discoveries in terrestrial magnetism depend on the possibility of comparing these records with those obtained in other countries.

Artificially produced electrical currents flowing through the soil near to the Observatory can interfere or obliterate the variations due to natural causes.

The magnetic observatories at Washington (U.S.A.) and Toronto have been ruined by the construction of electrical tramways in their neighbourhood.

A bill promoted by the 'London United Tramways' is to be introduced into Parliament during the present session authorising the construction of electric tramways near to Kew Observatory and will be close enough to cause damage. Furthermore, two branches are proposed, going to Richmond and Hownslow respectively starting at Kew Bridge and both of these will be worked by a generator at Richmond.

An efficient remedy would be secured if a clause were introduced into the Bill, similar to that inserted in 1897, at the instance of the Treasury and the Office of Works, for the protection of the Royal College of Science, into the Bill which authorized the Metropolitan and Distrcit Railways to use electricity as a motive power.

Outlines a number of facts which may be given for asking to Office of Works to take such steps, such as the fact that aid is frequently given or information supplied by the officials of the Observatory to various government departments; instruction in the use of magnetic instruments is often given to Officers under the Hydrographic Department of the Admiralty and others.

The officers of the following expeditions were also instructed at Kew and their instruments verified: "Alert", "Discovery", "Challenger", "International (British Contingent) Polar Expedition". Magnetic work of this sort would be interfered with if artificial currents flowed near the Observatory. Other work is also done at Kew for government departments.

The Old Deer Park is about the only space equally near to London which could be protected from electrical disturbances. For this, among other reasons, the Deputation which waited on the Marquis of Salisbury urging the establishment of a National Physical Laboratory suggested it as the best site for such an institution.

If the Observatory were compelled to remove to another site, there would be grave expenses but the record of the magnetic observations would be broken.
Physical descriptionTypescript
Access statusOpen
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