Sydney Observatory Papers No.31

Part 6




Henry Alfred Lenehan was born in Sydney on 1843, August 29. In August, 1870, immediately after Russell became Government Astronomer, Lenehan was appointed as his assistant and was for many years responsible for the transit work. In 1892 he suffered a paralytic stroke and was given leave for six months during which he visited Europe and made contact with Observatory work there. When Russell took sick on 1903, October 14, Lenehan was appointed Acting Government Astronomer.

At this time he worked in co-operation with several interesting visitors. Otto Klotz of the Dominion Observatory, Ottawa, made observations of Transpacific Longitudes in 1903-1904 and closed the circuit of longitudes around the world for the first time with observations made at Sydney in 1903, September and November. [pg. 18] In 1903, too, Professor W.J. Hussey examined possible observatory sites in Australia for theCarnegie Institute. Measurement of the force of gravity at the Observatory and magnetic measurements at the branch ofthe Observatory at Red Hill were made in June, 1904, by O. Hecker of the Central Bureau der Internationalen Erdmessung and in January, 1906, by A. Allessio of the Italian cruise Calabria Apparently Heckers visit, stimulated Lenehan to erect at Box Hill a smallbuilding in which to do the magnetic work now not possible at Sydney . Short carried this work for many more years.

The Federal Government had been established in 1901 and its constitutional powers included the administration of astronomical and meteorological observation. Politically more important matters delayed discussion of this but a conference of State astronomers to discuss it was held in Adelaide in May, 1905, at Lenehans suggestion and a conference of the state premiers in April, 1906, decided that the Commonwealth should take over the meteorological services but leave, the astronomical observatories in the hands of the states. H. A. Hunt was appointed Commonwealth Meteorologist at the beginning of 1907 and Lenehan was appointed Government Astronomer.

Soon after the conference, Lenehan was told that the Observatory would be moved to Red Hill and its administration transferred to the University of Sydney. In November, 1906, however, he was informed that the transfer to the University would not take place although the plans to move were still continued. On 1907, April 3, Lenchan wrote to the Under Secretary, to suggest that a site about two miles west of Hornsby would be between and A Memorial concerning a new site for Sydney Observatory, issued by the N.S.W. Branch of the British Astronomical Association, widened the whole question. A committee, appointed at Lenehans request, examined sites near Sydney, in the Blue Mountains and Canoblas Mountain near Orange. In 1907, May, the Committee recommended the Canoblas site, which was one favoured by Hussey. However, possibly because of the public protest about the proposal to establish the Mint on the present Observatory site, Lenehan was told that the removal of the Observatory was to be left in abeyance.

Russell had in 1888 obtained a Ewing seismograph and in 1901 a Milne seismograph, the latter as of a widespread plan recommended by the British Association for the Advancement of Science. According to Raymond some results were obtained from the first instrument but continuous recording had not taken place with either one owing to heavy blasting work on the Harbour foreshores. After the San Francisco earthquake on 1906, April 18, continuous recording was carried on from 1906, May 17, until 1948.

Lenehan attempted to organise the transit work to progress more systematically. Many thousands of observations, mainly for reference stars for the Astrographic Catalogue, were made although no results had been published beyond 1881. Impressed with the need for publication of these Lenehan in 1907 obtained a grant to publish the accumulated manuscript and arranged discussions with Baracchi on the form in which it should be published. Lenehan died too soon for anything to be accomplished.

Other activities in Lenehan's time included observations of Comet Daniel in 1907, participation by Observatory state members in the expedition to Flint Island for the total solar eclipse of 1908 and continuance of tidal work, which was carried on at several ports, including, Sydney, Newcastle, Macleay River, Clarence River and Yamba. From the beginning, Lenehan made efforts to improve the instrumental equipment. Alterations were made to the chronographs, the transit instrument and the building at Red Hill, and a new sidereal clock was ordered. In 1906 [pg. 19] some additions were made on the eastern side of the northern wing of the Observatory, and, in 1907, he began negotiations for the purchase of a 15 inch refractor for which he had obtained a vote of £2,000. The possibility of moving delayed the placing of the order, for it was not known whether the telescope would be placed in a new dome or accommodated by alterations to an existing dome. Then early in 1908 Lenehan had another stroke from which appeared to be recovering, but he died on May 2 and all of the plans for increasing, the instrumental resources or moving the 0bservatory lapsed.

Lenehan had had a difficult period of office when the future of the Observatory was in doubt and most of the plans he formed were not permitted to bear fruit, partly because of the shortness of his term. He quarrelled constantly with Hunt who succeeded in separating the work of the meteorological Branch and building up his prestige as a step towards taking over the Commonwealth meteorological work. Lenehans diaries are more interesting than most of the old records as he includes more human details and comments. Of an error by a navigating officer he wrote, I presume he was distracted by the usual petticoat that distracts most mortals.

William Edward Raymond, who took charge of the Observatory when he returned in January, 1908, from the Flint Island eclipse expedition and found Lenehan ill, remained Officer-in-Charge until 1912. He was born on 1871, May 25, and came to the Observatory in June, 1900, afterhaving previously been engaged in trigonometrical survey work. His work at the Observatory was with the transit instrument. With few changes he continued the transit work,magnetic observations and seismograph recording, except that in 1911 he had installed for the Milne seismograph anew recorder with a faster paper speed. In February, 1911, he co-operated with the Observatories in Adelaide and Perth to observe the position on the boundary between Victoria and South Australia.

One interesting event during this period was the appearance of Halleys Comet. After receiving word on 1909, September 15, that the comet had been recovered by Wolf of Hedelberg on September 11, Raymond himself saw itfirst at the end of November, after which he devoted a great deal of time to observing the comet and satisfying the public demand for information about it. From the middle of April to the beginning of June, 1910, it was a naked[-]eye object except for a short period when it was near conjunction with the Sun. It made a transit of the Sunon May 19, when Raymond and a small party of local astronomers made a careful examination, which included the taking of a photograph at Red Hill, but the comet was too tenuous for them to see any trace of it on the Sun. In 1911 Raymond and Short went with the expeditions to Vavau in the Friendly Islands for the eclipse of April 29.

Raymond continued his work, mainly at the transit instrument, until his retirement in April, 1936. He died on 1937, January 15.


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