1790’s Sedbergh’s connection with astronomy began over 200 years ago. James Inman, a pupil in the early 1790s, who went on to study Divinity at Cambridge, was appointed Astronomer to the Investigator discovery ship, off the coast of Australia. In 1808 he was appointed Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth, and in 1821 published his famous Navigation and Nautical Astronomy which continued to be used for over 100 years.
1848 The first known visiting lecturer at Sedbergh was ‘Mr Somerville’ who came to give an astronomy lecture in 1848. The lecture was delivered by candlelight and is depicted in this contemporary sketch.
1900 Headmaster H. G. Hart was presented with a telescope in recognition of his 20 years of service at Sedbergh School.
1903 The first recorded Astronomy Society event at Sedbergh School was held at Sedgwick Society, with slides showing movements of planets around the sun and a total eclipse.
1906 The Sedgwick Society held another astronomy lecture using ‘mechanical slides’ with photos of the moons, comets and the Lick Observatory.
1909 In a school debate with the motion ‘That the exploration of uninhabited lands served no useful purpose’ it was argued that the stars had been used as tools for navigation in the past and that astronomy was therefore crucial for exploration.
1932 D.C.A Bruce, a pupil, gave a lecture on the history of astronomy at the Sedgwick Society.
1954 English astronomer Fred Hoyle, famous for his rejection of the Big Bang theory, gave a talk to the Civic Society. A pupil writing in the Sedberghian Magazine recorded, ‘Mr Hoyle described to us the universe and the galaxies that compose it. The vastness of the subject astonished us but Mr Hoyle was so easily understood, and illustrated his talk with some impressive slides. He finished by explaining to us the importance of astronomy among the sciences.’
1984 The Sedbergh School Astronomy Society was established. Led by Hugh Symonds, the society aimed to fulfil both the theoretical and practical sides of astronomy for the selected enthusiasts in the school. The society was held both in the cloisters and Mr Symond’s garden.
1986 The Astronomy Society observed Halley’s Comet.
1990 As part of National Astronomy Week, the society held five public observing evening in the cloisters, 120 pupils and members of the local community took part.
1993 Sedbergh School pupils speak to Commander Ken Cameron on the NASA Discovery Shuttle STS-56 via radio link while the shuttle obits the earth. The astronauts signed a Sedbergh School rugby ball which is available to view in the school archive.
1997 Under Hugh Symonds direction pupils observed Comet Hale-Bopp
2010 Robin Hartley, Head of Science, took over the Astronomy Club when Jennifer Thornely donated the telescope belonging to her husband, former Headmaster Michael Thornely. Meetings were held in Sedbergh when skies were clear and pupils visited the Dark Skies area of Galloway where they saw the Northern lights.
2015 More than 500 Sedbergh School pupils and members of staff gathered above the memorial cloisters to observe the partial eclipse. In Sedbergh the eclipse reached around 80 per cent coverage shortly after 9.30am.