Leiden Observatory

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The second building to house the Leiden Observatory (built in 1860). This building now houses part of the biology department. Two of the optical telescope domes can be seen on the roof.

Leiden Observatory (Sterrewacht Leiden in Dutch) is an astronomical observatory in the city of Leiden, the Netherlands. It was established by Leiden University in 1633, to house the quadrant of Snellius, and is the oldest operating University observatory in the world. The observatory was located in the city centre until 1974 when the department moved to the university's science campus north-west of the city.


Leiden University established the observatory in 1633; astronomy had been on the curriculum for a long time and due to use of a large quadrant, Jacobus Golius requested an observatory in which to use it. The observatory was one of the first purpose-built observatories in Europe. Though Golius used the observatory regularly, no publications came out of its use, and by 1646 it was thought to no longer have been in use.[1] It is the oldest operating university observatory in the world.[2] From 1859 to 1909 the Netherlands civil time was set according to the local civil time at the observatory; communicated using the telegraphic network.[3]

In the early 19th Century the observatory formed a research agreement with Union Observatory to allow researchers use of both facilities. The first visitor from Leiden was Ejnar Hertzsprung. The collaboration lasted until 1972.[4]

The original observatory used observing platforms on the roof of the main university building at the Rapenburg. In 1860 a large, modern observatory was erected at the Witte Singel. This building was the home of the astronomy department until it moved to the science campus north-west of the city centre in 1974.[5] Although professional astronomical observations are no longer carried out from Leiden itself, the department still calls itself Leiden Observatory.

The astronomy department (Sterrewacht Leiden) is the largest in the Netherlands and is internationally renowned, performing research in a wide range of astronomical disciplines.

A number of prominent astronomers and physicists have done work at Leiden Observatory, including Willem de Sitter, Ejnar Hertzsprung, and Jan Oort, all of whom have served as Directors. Another famous employee was Jacobus Kapteyn.


Term Director
1837 – 1872[6] Frederik Kaiser
1872 – 1908[7] H. G. van de Sande Bakhuyzen
1908 – 1918[8] E. F. van de Sande Bakhuyzen
1918 – 1934[6] Willem de Sitter
1934 – 1945[6] Ejnar Hertzsprung
1945 – 1970[6] Jan Oort
1996 – 2003[9] George K Miley

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prögler, Daniela (2014). English Students at Leiden University, 1575-1650. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 1409484041. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Deborah Todd, Joseph A. Angelo (2009). A to Z of Scientists in Space and Astronomy. Infobase Publishing. p. 262. ISBN 1438109237. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Henriette Hertzsprung-Kapteyn (1928). "J.C. Kapteyn: His life and his works". p. 46. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Piet C. van der Kruit, Klaas van Berkel (2001). The Legacy of J.C. Kapteyn. Springer. p. 125. ISBN 1402003749. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  5. ^ van Gent, Robert. "Historical Telescopes in the Netherlands". Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d Schmadel, Lutz (2012). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer. pp. 129–130. ISBN 3642297188. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  7. ^ Leen Dorsman, Peter Jan Knegtmans (2009). Over de grens: internationale contacten aan Nederlandse universiteiten sedert 1876. Uitgeverij Verloren. p. 55. ISBN 9087041365. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  8. ^ David Baneke (2010). "Leiden Observatory Archives, E.F. van de Sande Bakhuyzen Archive (EB)". Leiden Observatory. 
  9. ^ Cluskey, Peter (30 March 2012). "Dutch honour for retired Irish-born astronomer who ran Leiden Observatory". The Irish Times (via HighBeam (subscription required)). Retrieved 4 June 2014. 

External links[edit]

Monumentenschildje blauw wit.svg Dutch Rijksmonument 24978

Coordinates: 52°09′18″N 4°29′06″E / 52.15500°N 4.48500°E / 52.15500; 4.48500