Oxford Inscriptions: Halley’s Observatory

Halley new plaque

[Image of Halley's Comet]


This engraved stone plaque is fixed to the gate-post of 7 New College Lane, the official residence of the Savilian Professor of Geometry since the eighteenth century, and commemorates Edmund (more usually Edmond) Halley.


Wikipedia: Edmond Halley

This new stone plaque was installed in 2019 to mark 400 years since the foundation in 1619 of the positions of the Savilian Professor of Astronomy and the Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford (planning application 19/02217/LBC)

Edmond Halley

It replaces the wooden plaque (right) which used to be fixed to the wall of No. 7.

As well as a mathematician, Edmond Halley was an astronomer, geophysicist, meteorologist, and physicist, and a friend of Isaac Newton. In 1682 he observed the comet that was named after him, and in 1684 computed its orbit.

Edmund Halley was elected Savilian Professor of Geometry at the University of Oxford in January 1703/4. He is believed to have moved into this house as a subtenant under the lease of John Wallis two months later, and an observatory was built for him here in about 1705.

In 1713 Halley was also appointed Secretary of the Royal Society, and in 1720 Royal Astronomer at Greenwich Observatory.

When the Radcliffe Observatory was built in the 1770s, the post of Radcliffe Observer was coupled to the astronomy professorship, and a house was provided at the Observatory for the incumbent, making this house available for general letting.

Halley's former home is still a New College house (below): the earlier wooden plaque to Halley that has been replaced by a plaque on the gate pillar can be seen to the left of the front door. It is jointly Grade II listed with No. 6 to the right (List Entry No. 1369401). The restored rectangular structure on the roof is believed to have been used by Halley as an observatory.

Halley's house

Stephanie Jenkins, 2013