Robert Lewis John Ellery. F.R.S. F.R.A.S Bronze Bust

As a project for the year 2002, Southern Skies Astronomy is establishing " The Ellery Trust" fund to superintend the casting of a bronze bust of R.L.J. Ellery. To be erected within the year, in a public place, free from all encumbrances, at Observatory Gate, the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.Director of the old Melbourne Observatory for nearly 40 years from the mid 19th Century. Eventually transforming it into a modern observatory of the 20th Century. Ellery gave it a international reputation which has largely been forgotten and ignored. The knowledge gained during those years was used by the Federal government in selecting Mt.Strmolo as the best place for Australia's National Observatory.


For the new colony of Victoria he was charged with the commission of surveying all its known land, boundaries were defined, maps laid out, the land cut and parceled.

He was involved in establishing the first Australian telegraph line, running between Williamstown and Melbourne. Using the telegraph he became the first astronomer in Australia to confirm the sighting of a comet.

Towards safe passage for ships he established protocols for the checking of time and the correction of ships chronometers, enabling Melbourne to develop as a centre of commerce. Weather forecasting was considered as a modern science.
By collating the reports of hundreds of weather stations in Victoria he was able to produce weather maps for publishing in the newspapers of the day.

Engravings Amateur astronomers ladies and gents at the Great Melbourne Telescope

A man for all seasons, he was also interested in music, President of the Royal Society of Victoria for 20 years, he also sat as Chairman of the Alfred Hospital.

Ellery often complained of three factors which interrupted his work, the weather, the moon, and socialites, of course he had no control over any of them.
On one occasion Ellery noted that the number of good nights for viewing was about 40 percent but the best nights only 17 percent over a 15 year period that the telescope had been in use"


Note the copper lamp for illuminating the spider web cross hairs of the transit during night time observation, many a beard would have been singed on the lamp by absent minded observers. They run very, very, hot.

The collapsed brass stand can be diss-assembled in a minute or so while the instrument fits into its own mahogany case for transportation. Ellery took delivery of a 2 foot portable Transit instrument in October 1860, at a cost of twenty six pounds, ten shillings.

Photograph showing lamp regulator clock sextant and 2 foot Transit instrument

A typical 19th Century Transit station with a 2 foot focus Troughton and Simms transit instrument {telescope}
The astronomical regulator counted sidereal seconds on the large scale, while the two inner scales counted hours and minutes.
A sextant, hand held telescope and chronometer would have completed the Transit Station.

Captain Cook took much the same type of transit Station to the pacific for the Transit of Venus in 1769.

Photograph Brian with sextant outside main building

Brian taking a noon shot with a 1850 sextant by: Barry of London: outside the Main Building of the Observatory

Part of the day to day routine of the observatory was to check weights and measures, sextants, surveying instruments, thermometers and chronometers. Certificates were issued showing the known errors of each instrument.

Ellery established weather stations across Victoria and their readings were telegraphed to the Observatory where Ellery and his assistants collated the information, for the weather maps which were published in the press of the day. Big game hunting was also a feature of the observatory site.

Engravings The specular polishing machine

Engravings Mr.Ellery and assistant?
Weather map
Engravings Dines recorder view of the roof with aneonmeter
Weather measuring instrument on top of the Observatory


Copyright © 2001 Brian Greig and Orrery Maker, except were noted. All Rights Reserved