A Brief History
Formation and the Section
The Astronomical Society of South Australia (hereafter referred
to as the Society) was established as a result of the interest of
C.C. Farr and his belief that there were
sufficient people with an interest in Astronomy in the colony of
South Australia. At the time he was the only member of the
British Astronomical Association in South
Australia, and at the B.A.A. meeting on February 25th 1891 his
involvement was reported as follows:
Mr Maunder explained that there was a real need for the formation of Branches. One of the earliest Members to join the Association had since gone to South Australia, and has written to say that some ten or a dozen gentlemen in Adelaide and the neighbourhood were willing to form a branch there. He believed Branches might soon follow in the other Australian Colonies, at the Cape, and in South America.
There were a number of interested persons in Adelaide. Some were members of the Royal Society of South Australia (C. Todd, D.B. Adamson, B.H. Babbage, A.W. Dobbie and T.D. Smeaton), others were members of the Port Adelaide Mathematical Society (later - in 1899 - the Port Adelaide Scientific Society) (Captain Inglis, Captain Weir, R.W.O. Kestel), while several were professionally involved in Astronomy or related fields (W.E. Cooke, W. Strawbridge, C. Hope-Harris and of course Charles Todd, the government astronomer).
Had you lived in Adelaide in December 1891 and had an interest in Astronomy, it is likely that you would have received a copy of the following circular:
Thinking there may be several amateur astronomers in South Australia who would welcome the formation of a small Society or Club for the purposes of meeting together occasionally and discussing astronomical matters, I venture to ask your cooperation and help in the formation of such a Society. I propose to call a meeting by advertisement, of those who are interested in the matter, to be held at the observatory on Tuesday December 22nd, at 8 p.m., Mr Todd having kindly consented to be present and to take the chair. Trusting this may meet with your favourable consideration,
Subsequently advertisements appeared in the newspapers and the first meeting was held in the observatory, situated in the parklands adjoining the city.
The first meeting was held on 22nd December 1891 and with the business incomplete, adjourned to the 15th February 1892. Mr Farr began by reading the circular which had been sent out and then introduced Mr Charles Todd who was not only the government astronomer, but the man whose efforts led to the successful building of the overland telegraph line in his position as head of the Posts and Telegraphs Department. He was noted for his quips, one example of which is given here:
When asked whether a postal service could be provided at Orroroo, Todd replied that it would not be worthwhile as there were only two letters in Orroroo.
There were fourteen people present at this first meeting. Five more sent their apologies and one, Mr A.W. Dobbie was prevented from coming at the last moment. Dobbie, who subsequently joined the Society was a remarkable man with talent in many fields. He built the first telephone in the southern hemisphere after reading of Professor Bell's instrument. He entered business for himself at the age of nineteen and soon became a prosperous merchant. He made a 12.5-inch speculum metal mirrored telescope. A report notes that he "encountered many difficulties". He must have excelled in patience, for it took him 11 years to complete the mirror. Later he built an 18-inch silver on glass reflector. He was a world traveller, a noted photographer, active in his church and a remarkable hypnotist.
At the meeting Todd suggested that a society might be affiliated with the B.A.A., the Royal Society, or stand alone. Farr moved and Sells seconded that "An astronomical society be formed, consisting of those present who give in their names, together with those absent who have expressed interest." Carried unanimously. It was then decided at the meeting that the Royal Society be approached to "ascertain under what condition the Society could become a Section of that body."
The Society was accepted by the Royal Society and became it's Astronomical Section on May 18th 1892. To fit in with the Royal Society's timetable the first annual meeting was delayed until October 1893.
Todd gave an inaugral address in June 1892, the first paper given to the Society. The title was "Two British Astronomers, Their Lives and Labours".
At about the same time a Mr Paris of Robe suggested that monthly notes be published. As a result the notes were first produced in July 1892, and in one form or another more or less continued through to the present day. Originally Mr Holden, a member of the Society and a reporter for The Register had brief notes published in that newspaper. These gradually became more extensive with reprints sent to each member.
Unfortunately, Sells, the provisional secretary, was forced to return to England, a sick man. Mr Cheesman was elected secretary, a position he was to hold until 1907. Mr Todd was to remain president until his death in 1910.
The Society operated almost independently within the Royal Society and from early in the association there were problems. In particular it was expected that the Royal Society would publish papers of Society members, and that the Society (which paid all its income to the Royal Society) would gain some portion of the government grant (75% on the membership fees). In both respects they were disappointed and none of the seven foundation members of the Society, who were also members of the Royal Society, remained members of the latter after the mid-1890s.
The Society continued with its membership and finances not changing much from year to year. Membership hovered around 45, and the annual credit balance, after the first few years, was about £20.
Sells initiated a nova search program on his return from England - the first observing program of the Society. It was ambitious and in terms of member involvement modestly successful, although no nova were discovered. Sells was the initiator and kept things on the move, so that with his untimely death in 1896 at the age of 34 the program came to an end.
By current standards the rules of the Society were somewhat quaint and not always followed. Rule 3 generously allowed that ladies were eligible for membership. Rule 7 indicated that for those proposing to join the Society Three black balls shall exclude any candidate. Rule 8 stated that the membership fee was 5/- payable annually in advance, but Rule 11 noted that a member failing to pay his subscription for the space of two years would cease to become a member. Thus the active membership and income was never as high as the nominal membership suggested.
In 1894-95 the Question Box was introduced and proved so successful that, in conjunction with cloudy skies which frustrated three attempts to hold an observing night, only one proper talk was given during the year, Hullett's "Determining the Orbits of Comets and Their Elements". The members of the Society, finding themselves constrained by the relatively few meetings held (4 ordinary meetings per year, according to the rules), changed the constitution where needed and increased the number of general meetings to 5 from 1895, 6 from 1899 and 7 from 1901.
In 1895 South Australia adjusted its clocks 14 minutes and 20 seconds and passed from a local time meridian to a time zone one hour behind the eastern states of Australia. Three years later, as a result of representations from commercial interests, a bill came before parliament to adjust the clocks to be 1/2 hour behind the eastern states. The Legislative Council debated the Bill and the Hon. R.S. Guthrie had added to a proposed amendment, That the Astronomical Section of the Royal Society be also asked to report. The amendment was carried by 11 votes to 8. The Society voted against any change though unsurprisingly this did not influence the outcome and the bill was passed.
In 1898 Mr Tepper spoke on, "The Seas of the Moon, and What are the Dark Areas and Canals of Mars". The lecture, and the discussion which followed, occupied part or all of that meeting and the next three - a substantial part of the year. In the same year, squeezed in on an evening when Tepper's papers were being discussed, was a demonstration of wireless, while in November a watch was kept for the spectacular meteor shower predicted. Nothing out of the ordinary was seen. Members tried again next year, with no better luck.
In 1901 there was another controversial lecture, accompanied by a demonstration, this time by a Mr Kestel. There was no doubt that he believed in what he said, which was that Newton hadn't quite got it right and there was a force of repulsion as well as attraction. Since the secretary records Mr Kestel's uniform courtesy under trying conditions, and at one stage in the discussions, before beginning his reply, Kestel obtained a promise that members would not interject unduly, it seems as if the audience may have remained unconvinced.
In 1901 the Society applied for a grant of £14-10-0, and the Royal Society in reply asked what the money was to be used for, and why it was required when the last annual report indicated that the Society had a credit balance. The Society's secretary was instructed to again apply for the grant, which the Royal Society again declined to provide, giving as its reason that they had every right to know how the money was to be used. A section, for example, might use the money for a picnic, which they could in no way countenance. (Later, the Society did hold a picnic.) The dispute escalated rapidly, with the Society now demanding a part of the government grant. The Royal Society believed that negotiations were continuing but the Society had had enough. It called a special meeting, voted to disaffiliate from the Royal Society, and advised them accordingly.
Was the Society justified? Perhaps. In all £80 was paid to the Royal Society which received £60 in grants on that amount, or £140 in all. The Society only ever received £67.
In the Royal Society's annual report the Society only rated six words - The Astronomical Section no longer exists.
Struggle for Survival 1901-1942
One would expect that the Society, having experienced the
problems of affiliation, would be reluctant to try again; however
it did, almost immediately, this time with the Public Library, the
move apparently initiated by William Russell, an
active Society member and newly appointed to the Institutes
Committee. The reason for the affiliation was the same as before -
the government grant.
This new affiliation proved to be satisfactory for more than 50 years. The Society did receive the full government grant, and a room was made available at the North Terrace Institute when the Society requested one. Originally the Society occupied a room vacated by the Royal Society but later used the Royal Society's own rooms. The Royal Society was not able to refuse since they were also affiliated with the Public Library and their position in relation to the room was that of a tenant. However by this time the relationship between the two societies was generally harmonious. In 1912 the Royal Society sought to have the relationship between the two Societies put on a firmer basis, that is the Society should reaffiliate with it. The president, Professor Chapman and the Secretary, Mr Hiscock were inclined to favour this arrangement, but the members were not. The idea of reaffiliating was very firmly dismissed at a meeting of the Astronomical Society and this issue was never raised again.
The initial membership fee of 5/- adopted in 1892 remained unchanged until the early years of World War II when it was raised to 7/6. (It rose to 10/- when the Society resumed after the war). Membership continued to be small, nominally 40 to 60 but in reality much less with membership being terminated only after two years non payment of fees. In 1927 - so the secretary records - no new member was admitted to the Society. This was the only occasion on which this had occurred to that time and, it would appear, it has not happened since. This was somewhat balanced by the one moment of glory in 1937 when the membership rose briefly by 13 due to the members of a small telescope making group joining the Society. They did not get much encouragement and most stayed only briefly. The Society, continued with a small membership and adequate though generally limited finance, neither much improved from soon after its foundation. It was apparently not a very progressive group with much of the work done by a few people, as illustrated by the letter Captain Lee wrote to the secretary in 1902, which says, in part:
In one sense the paper (which was to be presented at the next meeting) is a pure waste of time for I suppose our members will not have expended a single thought over Mr Meyer's book, and my paper will not set the Thames on fire, and cause them to think. The subject will simply be killed, as everything else is, starved to death. How very few of our members attend the meetings, or show any interest in our work. It appears to me to be one of the most useless institutions in the state. It is not your fault and it is not mine. By the way, if I speak at the next meeting, I do not intend to do so at the next following. I will give some of the drones a chance.
Some Papers Presented to the Society
Excellent records exist of many of the talks given at the
Society meetings and these provide a useful history of astronomical
advances over the decades. In selecting a few references which time
has shown to be badly wrong (though a few have proved to be
remarkably accurate) it should be borne in mind that most items
were of contemporary astronomy and (on the basis of what was known
at the time) accurate and conventional.
A popular subject. Chapman spoke in 1902, referring to the ether and to LeSage's theory of perpetual bombardment by atoms going in every direction creating a gravitational force, the consequences of which are that the duration of gravity is finite as all matter fades away. Replace perpetual bombardment by gravitational waves and the theory does not seem quite so outlandish.
Mr Tepper also spoke on gravity, with his own original suggestions, one of which was that gravity was only a result of difference in mass, and two objects of equal mass did not attract. To one such statement the minute secretary added an exclamation mark - evidently his opinion of the theory.
Rotation of Solar System Bodies
Does the Moon Rotate on its Axis? Finniss expressed the opinion that it did not, but the rest of the members were not in agreement.
In 1904 Finniss spoke on "Revolution and Rotation of the Planets". He presented a relationship concerning the rotational velocity of the planets and their velocity in orbit. Mr Chapman suggested that this might be a new law of Astronomy. [However, as Astronomy books don't mention Finniss's First Law it would appear that there was something wrong with his maths].
In 1908 Finniss came up with his Second Law. If the square of the velocity of any planet, blank blank, with the square root of its distance in miles from the centre of the Sun, the result invariably gives the velocity of light. The blank blank corresponds to two words omitted from the minutes by the Secretary. Has this slip cost Astronomy a new law? Was Finniss being secretive and trying to keep his law a secret, or did a moment's inattention by the Secretary cost the world a new theory?
Life on Other Worlds
On July 8th 1914, following a talk by Mr Gray, Mr Stutley stated that Professor Lowell had discovered lines due to chlorophyll in the spectrum of Neptune which indicated vegetable life there.
September 10th 1913 Mr Hambidge, speaking on "The Finite and the Infinite in Astronomy" said, "Notwithstanding the immense strides now being made in astronomical knowledge the habitability of other worlds would possibly always remain a question of conjecture".
If it is assumed that he was referring to the Sun's planetary system, as seems probable, "possibly always" seems to have shrunk to 70 years.
Discussing "Recent experiments in the Transmutation of Matter", Professor Kerr Grant in June 1932, stated, "It is erroneous to suppose that transmutation on a large scale is possible". He would no doubt have been intrigued, though possibly not amused to find large quantities of plutonium being produced in this way within 30 years.
Some Early Members of the Society
In 1907 Charles Todd had attended his last
meeting. He continued to be elected president until his death in
1910, but this was almost an honorary position with Prof.
Chapman, as vice-president, controlling the business of
the Society. Chapman was a worthy successor, and
easily beat Todd's 15 years as president by
serving as such for 32 years, until his death in 1942.
Hiscock, who succeeded Cheesman
as Secretary in 1908 even exceeded this record, remaining secretary
for 34 years.
Mr Dodwell, the government astronomer following Todd was a long term member of the Society but there appears to have been some coolness in the relationship. He was only ever president for 2 years, in the years following the war recess. There was a spate of closures of government observatories, Sydney, Perth, and but for WW II, Adelaide. The war made demolition of the observatory and replacement by a high school impractical and so the observatory, and the Government Astronomer were granted a few more active years.
Professor Kerr Grant was an active member who served the Society as vice-president for a lengthy period. A frequent and entertaining speaker, he was always interested in and active in the Society, in spite of his many university duties. Mr Shinkfield, who joined the society in 1922 and was a member at his death in 1984 was probably the Society's greatest amateur contributor, in solar studies, meteor and auroral observations, and particularly in variable stars. He regularly attended meetings and contributed, on average, a talk each year (see also the reference to his post war contributions). Mr Hiscock was secretary of the Society from when he took over from Cheesman until WW II. He continued as a member after the war. The Special Member - dare he be named for what one might see as a somewhat negative contribution to Astronomy? James Cyril Stobie B.E. His pre-WW II address? c/- Adelaide Electric Supply Company Limited.
Astronomically Related Events of the Early Years
In 1902, in September, Adelaide, indeed a considerable part of
South Australia's populated area was hit by an
earthquake which caused considerable damage.
Probably it was the worst in the state during recorded history. It
was used to promote the idea of obtaining a seismograph at the
Observatory. Such an instrument was obtained although many years
In September 1909 there was a spectacular auroral display, seen from the centre of Adelaide and indeed from all over Australia. It was said by Mawson to be as bright as anything ever witnessed by us in the Antarctic.
In 1909 Halley's comet was visible. It was first seen in Australia by David Ross, and in South Australia on November 24th (147 days before perihelion) using the 8-inch refractor of the Adelaide Observatory.
In 1910 there was a total eclipse of the Sun visible in southern Tasmania. Visible is perhaps a misnomer, not many people witnessed the event because of cloudy skies. Dodwell and Dobbie were among those who went to the area and they jointly gave to the Society a report of what little they had seen.
In 1916 there was an annular eclipse of the Sun visible from near Adelaide (it was annular at Mannum). This, though not as spectacular as a total eclipse, attracted member interest.
The opposition of Mars, which occurred on the 24th August 1924 was reported as being the most favourable opposition between the years of 1800 and 2000.
One of the most important astronomical events of this period was the total eclipse of the Sun, visible at Cordillo Downs station in the northern part of South Australia on September 21, 1922.
The Society ceased operation in the early years of the war
almost certainly as a result of the death of Professor R.W.
Chapman in January 1942. It would seem that with the
membership already in decline in 1941 (35 on the roll but in
reality probably far fewer paid up members) and the onset of the
Pacific war that the Society did not meet again until former
members reestablished the Society in 1948. The same members
initially, the same name, and the same Savings Bank Account seem to
establish a connection across the war period.
Nor is much known about the circumstances in which the Society resumed its activities. It appears that in late 1947 or early 1948 former members met and re-established the Society. It is known that in 1949 the Society had a membership of 50, an average attendance at meetings of 24 and in spite of an increase in membership fees to one pound the Society finances were at the lowest ever recorded (before or since) namely 6d or 5 cents.
The Post-War Society
While the Adelaide Observatory was in existance there was no
great incentive for the Society to provide such a facility itself,
but with the demolition of the observatory soon after the war the
Society began to examine ways in which it might provide itself with
a suitable instrument at a permanent site.
The first attempt seems to have been in the early 1950s when the University (custodian of the Adelaide Observatory's 8-inch refractor, then in storage) was asked if the Society might borrow the telescope. The request was refused, which was probably fortunate. What the Society would have done (with an annual excess of income over expenditure of a few pounds) with a refractor requiring a large dome to house it is difficult to imagine.
More practically (in view of its finances) the Society became actively involved in presenting public field nights using portable telescopes provided by the members. Not surprisingly these field nights (commonly one each year in the late 1950s) were extremely popular and provided valuable publicity and useful recruiting for the Society. On February 8 1957 such a field night attracted about 1,500 members of the public. With 15 or so telescopes the queues seemed endless though the visitors were most patient. That there were the odd problems is shown by Society records which indicate that it received a reprimand from the Adelaide Council for infringing an agreement not to have more than 1 vehicle on the parklands at any one time.
In March 28 1958 there was almost a repeat of the previous field night. About 1,000 people turned up even though the sky remained cloud covered during the evening. On January 16 1959 an estimated 2,000 appeared at what must be the best attended field night the Society has ever held.
Largely because of the interest aroused in Astronomy at this time (primary because of the IGY and the first unmanned space flight) membership of the Society grew rapidly, the finances improved and the possibility of obtaining a permanent observatory and perhaps a meeting place was raised once more. The observing plans of the Society were slightly changed, for a time, with Mr A. Clarke proposing that the Society should be involved in the the Moonwatch program, that is the tracking of the artificial satellites which were soon to be placed in orbit. Adelaide was ideally located to sight most satellites on their first pass since the launch from Cape Canaveral, as it then was, passed overhead.
Moonwatch deserves a history of its own. The group rather quickly ceased to have any connection with the Society, although originally half or more of the Moonwatch members were also Society members. Moonwatch continued into the sixties. Mr R. Marcus was its leader when it became operational, subsequently handing over to Dr A.C. Beresford. Within about two years the organisation reduced to only one or two members and soon afterwards advances in tracking technology made Moonwatch redundant.
The instigator of efforts to provide the Society with its own observatory was also Mr A. Clarke. Several options were canvassed - including some unlikely ones such as making use of a small derelict ETSA sub-station situated in the north parklands, but finally after long negotiations with the Education Department, the Society was provided with a room at the Norwood Boys High School and permission was granted for the construction of an observatory there. The frame of the dome was donated by Mr Rumball, the optics of the 300mm Dall-Kirkham telescope were prepared by Mr Grafton and the whole structure put up in a series of working bees, mostly in 1962 and 1963. The official opening by the Minister of Education took place at 3p.m. on Saturday February 15th 1964.
The gradual deterioration of the observing qualities of the site, due to the increasing light pollution in the area and the growth of nearby trees, as well as the desire for a larger telescope led to the purchase of land and the construction of an observatory with a 500mm telescope at Stockport, sufficiently far north of Adelaide to provide dark skies. This observatory was formally opened on March 8th 1986. By this time the conditions at the Marryatville observatory made it unsuitable even for public field nights and accordingly, after negotiations for an alternate site were successful the construction of a new observatory at the Heights, north of Adelaide was undertaken and the observatory opened in October 1989. The Marryatville telescope was transferred to the Heights although the observatory building was a new structure.
The I.G.Y. encouraged an interest in things practical and an
auroral group was established with the members reported directly to
the Auroral Data Centre. Other groups followed over the years, most
to last only briefly while a few keen observers were present to
encourage and direct, and disappearing when these members left. In
the 1950s the membership was generally not sufficient to sustain a
long lasting section, but as membership increased and facilities
became available for those without their own personal instruments,
sections reestablished themselves and continued on a permanent
basis. Some sections were of an observational nature, variable
stars, grazing occultations, et cetera. Others were concerned with
other aspects of Astronomy, such as telescope making and more
Commencing in 1964 classes in elementary Astronomy were held. These were mostly for non-members or new members, provided a basic understanding of Astronomy, and were quite popular. Many of those who attended went on to become members of the Society. By 1967 this activity took the name of public lectures and was somewhat more formalised with a copy of the lecture notes supplied to those attending.
The Society was often asked to provide speakers or other forms of astronomical help and although this was not provided from any formal group the same people were usually called upon to assist. Although these members gained their own satisfaction from such activities perhaps few benefitted as much as did the volunteer who responded to a request from the monastry at Sevenhills, asking for help in putting together a telescope which they possessed. Possibly he knew something the rest of the members did not, for he related later that work on the telescope occupied little time in comparison to sampling the church wines which were produced there.
The talks given to the Society during the early post-war years
were little changed from earlier times although an occasional new
subject crept in such as quasars or flying
saucers, while there were occasional reviews of science
fiction films as in the August 1951 Bulletin:
Certain astronomical criticism could be levelled at this picture (such as the possibility of thunderstorms and rain on Mars) but the picture has some good astronomical sense and does not, for instance, make the mistake of showing mountains on Mars!
Now, of course it seems that both the film and the critic got it wrong.
The Society changed its meeting place from the Royal Society's rooms to the Physics lecture room at the University of Adelaide in the mid-1950s. This was a necessity brought about by the increase in numbers - occasionally 50 or more members attended a meeting and this was too many for the Royal Society's room. Meetings continued to be held here for a lengthy period until (because of parking difficulties and other problems) it was moved to the Physics lecture room at the Level's Campus, north of Adelaide.
By 1968 the format of the meetings was changed to make them more attractive to members by the introduction of an interval separating the business of the meeting from the talk. This was only one of many changes over the decade, the main slant being to reduce the amount of business as much as possible, shorten the main talk and provide additional information of a different and more entertaining nature. As a result films were shown at most meetings and short talks on such subjects as the Sky for the Month, were provided. A film shown at a secondary meeting and entitled "The Milky Way" brought a (brief) stunned silence when the credits revealed it was produced by a dairy company! Thereafter reliance was not placed on the title alone.
An attempt was made to obtain members' views on the way the meetings should be organised, the type of talks which would be most popular, et cetera, but this proved to be a dismal failure. Of 180 questionnaires sent out only 20 were returned. (Was Lee's ghost present at this time, rubbing his hands and saying, I told you so!)
Exhibition nights were usually held once a year when members showed various items (mostly equipment) and reported on them, a topic which proved to be of sufficient interest that it has continued to the present time.
Popular with visitors was the Society's Library. It must have been reasonably extensive prior to 1970 since it was noted in that year that 77 books were missing.
In 1962 Rev. Father Bustelli, a member of the Society's Council, spoke to the Society suggesting the preservation of items of historical interest and, not surprisingly, was promptly given the title of Archivist and made responsible for the Society's records. In October 1963 he presented a talk to the Society on the early history of the Society, the first such talk ever given. The Rev. Father Bustelli stated that he wished to continue the history of the Society, but declared that this would not be possible until the first of the missing minute books, covering the period 1916 to 1925 was found. The book was never discovered and no subsequent history was provided by Rev. Father Bustelli.
Society History was the topic for the April 5th meeting 1967 when Mr Clarke summarised what was known about the past presidents of the Society and urged the younger members to write a further 25 years of worthy accomplishments into its history. This was the 75th anniversary of the first formal meeting of the Society.
In July 1971 there was a mention of missing minute books, but that was the only renewal of interest until 1980. It then seemed wise to make the best of what information was available, before more disappeared. Fortunately the loss of the missing minute book (and one covering the early post-war years) did not prove to be a serious problem.
Professor Kerr Grant was induced to talk to the Society in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966. His meetings were always well attended and at the last there were 105 people in the audience, the largest for the decade. It was the last he was to give and although mentally very alert he was becoming physically infirm, and as he moved towards the edge of the stage the nearer members could be seen bracing themselves for a sudden dash to catch him if he overstepped. He was then aged 88 and was to die on October 13th of the following year. In 1969 the Sir Kerr Grant memorial prize was instituted for secondary school children projects in Astronomy and it was first awarded in 1970.
Of special interest were the two NACAA (National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers) meetings held in Adelaide. The first was in 1974, the second in 1992 commemorated the centenary of the Society.
Disaffiliation and Other Problems
In February 1965 the National Library made contact and advised
that the Society was obliged to provide issues of the Bulletin to
the library - not only future issues but back issues. There was an
anxious search in old cartons and boxes and a request was made for
anyone having spare copies of the required Bulletins to provide
them for forwarding to the Library. A few months later the National
Library struck again, this time requiring all Society annual
reports. Again, an attempt was made to meet our obligations.
More important was the issue of disaffiliation - and yes, it is an echo of 1901 when the Society was a section of the Royal Society. The Society had long been affiliated to the Libraries Board and the relationship continued so long without any requirement by one party of the other that the relationship was almost forgotten. It became a point of issue that in the late 1950s the Society sold off its old library books to members - and then discovered that it had no right to do so. Under the terms of the affiliation agreement such a disposal of property was not permitted.
The Council maneuvred their way through that problem, but realised that it now had much larger assets which it did not want to have under Libraries Board control. So it began negotiating with the latter to end this affiliation on 4th March 1964. On 15th August 1968 the Libraries Board accepted the proposal but some of the details were unacceptable to the Society, and further negotiations were conducted. In November 1969 the amendment was acccepted and to all intents and purposes we were disaffiliated. The one remaining link was that items of historic value cannot be disposed of other than to be given to the library.
Post-War Membership and Members
The membership at the end of 1955 was 101, an increase of 10 on
the previous year's total after taking the rare step of actually
removing from the books 10 delinquent members. Although there have
been brief periods of decline and some longer periods of static
membership the trend has been upwards so that after a century of
existance there was a membership of about 450 with an average
attendance at the meetings of around 70.
In 1962 membership fees were raised to $5 for an ordinary member, providing about $800-900 income in the early years rising to around $1,400 when the membership was greater. Some 60 to 70 percent of this income was used in production and postage for the Bulletin and with general costs rising it was necessary to again raise the fees, to $7.50 in 1971. Continued increasing costs have led to fairly regular increases in fees to the present $34.
Honorary Life Members
In choosing a few members whose contributions were of special
importance to the Society no better choice could be made than those
who were seen by the Society itself as sufficiently valuable
contributors to be made honorary life members. Some of these
Mr Hiscock in 1948 for his long service as secretary prior to the second World War. He attended meetings until a few years before his death, aged 92, in 1964. He was proposed by Mr M. Costelloe who received a like honor in January 1964. M. Costelloe was actively involved in reviving the society after WW II and was an officer of the Society in this early period.
Mr. R.L. Sangster - honorary life member in January 1964. He was a very active member holding the position of Publicity Officer until the end of 1967 and was largely responsible for the publication of astronomical notes in The Advertiser, the daily newspaper. (At about the time he resigned from this position The Advertiser decided against publishing the notes. The Society wrote to The Advertiser asking them to reconsider and The Advertiser declined to change its decision. The Society then wrote a letter to the Editor which The Advertiser declined to publish. All this seemed like a faint echo of the problem with publishing the notes over half a century before. However it all ended rather more amicably.) Mr Sangster was an enthusiastic telescope maker and a keen observer and contributed a large section on both to the Bulletin, under the title of Telescoptics from mid-1963. He also reviewed the publications on other amateur societies in Australia and provided notes to the Bulletin, so that members might be better informed of the amateur scene.
Mr A. Clarke - honorary life member in April 1964. He was another very active member and involved in most public relation exercises, including the placement of a plaque at the Adelaide Boys High School to commemorate the Adelaide Observatory, previously at this site. His involvement in the establishment of the Moonwatch group and the Marryatville observatory have already been mentioned.
Mr W. Bradfield - honorary life member from March 1989. This was primarily in recognition of his cometary discoveries, particularly the 13th in September 1987 which established him as the world's top comet hunter this century. To date Bill Bradfield has discovered a total of 17 comets, all visually.
The circulars of the early post war years became the Bulletin in
1950. These gradually developed into the Bulletin that we have
today with its account of past and future meetings, reports of
sections and other items of interest to members. Initially the
responsibility of the secretary, an editor took over in the early
1950s and changed it from a news-sheet into a useful publication.
Mr C. Westcott, an early editor not only editted
the material and saw the Bulletin through the printers and
despatched on time, but was obliged to write a considerable part of
it himself with regular Reflections and
Miscellany sections. Much of the remainder, at this time,
was contributed by Mr R. Sangster.
Mr Westcott decided against seeking re-election for 1964 as a result of criticism relating to the Bulletin's masthead (his own design, though this was not generally known). Mr Gray was persuaded to become the editor, a decision he probably soon regretted as he too came in for criticism on a variety of matters. Likely he was too efficient a reporter since on one occasion the Council directed "that no domestic complaints be aired in its (the Bulletin's) pages". Other editors followed, not many of them staying long as it was something of an onerous task with difficult to read hand-written contributions being submitted and the editors obliged to re-type the material without benefit of word processors.
Currently the Society is progressive and tolerably prosperous. It holds regular general monthly meetings, frequent meetings for members of specialised groups and has available two observatories, one with a 300mm telescope at the Heights within easy reach of Adelaide and used primarily for public viewing, and a second at Stockport with 500mm and 450mm telescopes presently in service and a larger 36-inch instrument currently being considered. The Society has a long and interesting history and we hope that far in the future some historian will be able to review our second century of operation with as much pleasure as I derived from reviewing the first.