Salute to pioneering astronomer who set up Edinburgh's One o'clock Gun

The name Charles Piazzi Smyth rarely trips off the tongue of most Edinburghers, but he was behind a myriad of things that are woven into the rich fabric of our city.

Thursday, 20th February 2020, 1:38 pm
Piazzi Smyth started the Time Ball service which involved hoisting a large ball from the top of Nelson Monument which would drop at exactly one oclock every day as a as a time signal to ships docked in Leith harbour. Picture: TSPL

But now a new celebration of his life aims to change all that and help recognise an artist and pioneering photographer and astronomer who was responsible for setting up the One O’Clock Gun.

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With 2019 marking Piazzi Smyth’s 200th birthday, astronomers, historians and some of his relatives visiting from Australia gathered this week in a series of events at the Royal Society of Edinburgh in George Street.

Among the events was a lecture on Tuesday evening by renowned photo historian Denis Pellerin, archivist for the huge stereo photo collection by Queen guitarist Brian May, who has revealed himself to be a big fan of the work of Piazzi Smyth.

Andy Lawrence, Regius Professor at the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, said: “Piazza Smyth and his gifted wife Jessie transformed astronomy and the everyday fabric of Edinburgh Life. What an exciting few days celebrating his life and work.”