Europe: Jesuit Astronomy and Geophysics (1814–2000)

  • Augustín Udías
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 286)


Observatories in Europe were started soon after the restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814, most of them before 1900 (18 out of 24). The majority were connected with schools or faculties of philosophy for Jesuit students or with seminaries for secular priests, while other were attached to universities, colleges or secondary schools. In both cases their main purpose was to serve as an aid for teaching science courses and specifically courses on astronomy. However, some of them began with the intention of their being real research facilities. These later acquired an identity independent of the schools to which they were at first attached, as in the case of the observatories of the Collegio Romano (Italy), Stonyhurst (England), Kalocsa (Hungary), Cartuja and Ebro (Spain). The main interest of these observatories was initially in astronomy and meteorology, responding to the practice at the late part of the XIX century, when these two types of observations were usually carried out in the same observatory. These observations were followed later by those of geomagnetism and seismology. The main astronomical observatories were those of the Collegio Romano (Italy), Stonyhurst (England), Kalocsa (Hungary), Gianicolo (Italy), Valkenburg (Holland), and Cartuja (Spain). The Vatican Observatory, the direction of which is entrusted to the Jesuits, has a different character in that it is directly dependent on the Holy See. The observatories usually had one main telescope with equatorial mounting installed within a rotating dome, with other smaller telescopes and complementary instruments. Solar and spectral observations became soon also very common in Jesuit observatories, and for this purpose spectroscopes were added to the telescopes. Meteorological instrumentation was, generally, very complete with observations of atmospheric temperature, pressure and humidity, of rainfall and of wind direction and velocity done several times a day. The observatories of Mondragone (Italy), La Guardia (Spain), Gozo (Malta), Jersey (England) and Comillas (Spain) were dedicated primarily to meteorology. Geomagnetic observations started early in the Collegio Romano (Italy), Stonyhurst (England), Kalocsa (Hungary), and were the main interest in Ebro (Spain). In most cases magnetometers for absolute measurements, and variometers giving continuous recordings of the variations of the three components of the Earth’s magnetic field were installed. Seismological observations were started around the beginning of the 20th century in Mondragone (Italy), Stonyhurst (England), Cartuja (Spain) and Ebro (Spain). Later in Cartuja seismology became the main interest. The observatories of Travnik (Bosnia) and Rathfarnham Castle (Ireland) were set up exclusively as seismological stations.


Solar Eclipse Astronomical Observatory Meridian Circle Meteorological Observation Astronomical Observation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Augustín Udías
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geophysics and MeteorologyUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations