Founded on June 29, 2002 at Wadham College, Oxford, by writer and local historian Stuart Williams and well-known astronomy historian Dr. Allan Chapman of Wadham College, with the able assistance of amateur astronomer and historian Ken Goward, FRAS, the SHA is now well-established as the UK’s national society dedicated to the specialised, but ever-fascinating field of the history of astronomy.
Governed by its elected Council which works in co-operation with a number of appointed Officers and the Members at large, the SHA offers the following facilities:
Each year, the SHA organises two conferences in the Spring and the Autumn (the latter incorporating the Annual General Meeting). The Spring Conference is often a Joint Meeting with another like-minded organisation, and takes place at various venues, typically Greenwich, Cambridge and Manchester. The Autumn Conference takes place at the Birmingham & Midland Institute, where the SHA’s Sir Robert Ball Library is based, close to the end of October. In addition our Summer Picnic is an informal social event, usually at a place of astronomical interest, and occasionally we also add a slightly more formal Summer Outing. Admission to meetings (apart from the AGM itself) is normally at extra cost to membership.
The Society’s Survey of Astronomical History is a core element of its work and the primary reason for its founding. SHA Councillor Roger Jones is its Co-ordinator. The Survey aims to reveal the depth of local history of astronomy in particular, across the UK, and is housed in the SHA’s library in Birmingham.
Based at the Birmingham and Midland Institute (www.bmi.org.uk) the SHA’s Sir Robert Ball Library includes both extensive reference collections, books, journals etc and a lending library (the Sir Patrick Moore Lending Collection, formerly the Sir Patrick Moore Library), staffed by volunteer librarians and overseen by a Library Committee. The Library Service is administered by Head Librarian Madeline Cox, FRAS, Chair of SHA and of the Library Committee. General Secretary Stuart Williams and Survey Co-ordinator and Assistant Librarian Roger Jones assist the Head Librarian. Access to the Sir Robert Ball Library is by arrangement only – see the Library page for details.
The SHA’s Archive is based at the Library of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, under the supervision of Institute Librarian and SHA Archivist Mark Hurn. It seeks to preserve a record of the Society and of members’ work and to encourage the deposit of original research materials at appropriate record offices.
The SHA produces a range of publications which are all benefits of membership:
The SHA e-News a quarterly electronic newsletter containing news and announcements, is distributed by email in pdf format and will in future be available for download on this website. Edited by Clive Davenhall.
The SHA Bulletin (formerly the ‘SHA Newsletter’) is a substantial twice yearly printed publication containing non time-dependent news, reviews, articles, in-depth meeting reports and letters, sent to members in Spring and Autumn). Edited by Clive Davenhall.
The Antiquarian Astronomer is our acclaimed annual peer-reviewed printed journal of members’ original research, offering a mix of history of local, national and international significance. Our flagship publication, it is edited by Kevin Johnson.
The SHA Website is also seen as a showcase publication, and has undergone a refurbishment by the Webmaster Stuart Williams. A separate but linked SHA Survey website is edited by Survey Co-ordinator Roger Jones.
All our publications aim to meet high standards whether they be popular or academic, printed or online, as appropriate.
The SHA participates in events dedicated to ‘grass roots’ astronomy, and has fielded stands at the British Astronomical Association Exhibition Meetings, Federation of Astronomical Societies Conferences, Leeds AstroMeets and Orwell Astronomical Society events since its foundation. These public appearances have and will continue in similar vein as time and personnel availability permits, and we look forward to making many more new friends around the UK as a result.
The SHA is delighted to be affiliated to the Royal Astronomical Society and the Birmingham & Midland Institute. We also maintain cordial relations with the British Astronomical Association, it’s Historical Section, the Society for Popular Astronomy and the British Sundial Society. We aim to foster cordial relations with all national, regional and local groups with a common interest. We welcome contact with any such group and a number are Institutional Members of the SHA.
For your interest and information, you are welcome to download a copy of the SHA’s constitution via the following link:
You are invited to download our general triform leaflet in pdf form via the following link:
The Society for the History of Astronomy does not rest on its laurels. We exist to help collect, preserve and make available astronomy’s history for posterity, and look to the future with great anticipation and enthusiasm. New members of course continue to be very welcome, whether in the UK or beyond our shores!
Past Secretary & Webmaster