[University home]

Centre for Atmospheric Science

The Whitworth Observatory in 1906

Extract from: The Physical Laboratories of the University of Manchester : a record of 25 years' work prepared in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the election of Dr. Arthur Schuster, F. R. S., to a professorship in the Owens College, by his old students and assistants. Edited by R. S. Hutton, pp31-33. 1906.


The meteorological activity of the Physical Department dates back to the year 1892, when the Whitworth Trustees handed over to the Owens College the Observatory which they had erected and equipped in Whitworth Park—about ten minutes’ walk from the University. The generosity of the Whitworth Trustees was also responsible for the permanent endowment of this observatory in 1897.

From the year 1892 regular observations of the barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, wind direction, wind velocity, and amount of sunshine have been taken at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily. Records are supplied to the “Manchester Guardian” and the “Manchester Courier” daily, and weekly summaries are published in the “Manchester City News.” In January, 1901, the Observatory became a second class station attached to the London Meteorological Office, to which the observations are forwarded, to be used in the general work of the Office.

Last year, the University, at the request of Dr. Schuster, decided to extend the meteorological work by establishing a separate department in which the scientific study of the subject, as a special branch of physics, could be pursued. With this end in view, Mr. G. C. Simpson was appointed University Lecturer in Meteorology and the Observatory was given into his charge. For several years a portion of the endowment fund had been allowed to accumulate, and with this it was decided to make the equipment of the Observatory more effective and complete, especially by the provision of self-registering instruments of modern type. A sum of nearly £200 was spent, and as a consequence the Observatory is now one of the best equipped in the country. The instruments in daily use are the following:—

Read at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
- Barometer.
- Dry Bulb Thermometer
- Wet Bulb Thermometer
- Maximum Thermometer
- Minimum Thermometer
- Black Bulb Thermometer
- Grass Thermometer
- Rain Gauge

Self recording instruments.
- Barograph.
- Robinson Anemometer.
- Dines-Baxendell Pressure Tube
- Anemometer and Anemograph
- Sunshine Recorder.

The daily observations are at present taken by Messrs.
F. Marquis and J. Vest, students of the University.

The study of Meteorology at the University has had a good beginning, the new courses of lectures being well attended. Several Honours students are taking Meteorology as the special subject to be presented for their degree, and some have undertaken researches bearing on Meteorology. It is hoped that original research in this subject will in future form a constant part of the work of the physics department.

Owing to the lack of special information it is impossible to undertake forecast work; but each day a map of the weather of North-West Europe is drawn from observations taken the previous evening at 6 p.m. and specially forwarded from the Meteorological Office, London. The maps are placed on a notice board in the entrance hail of the Laboratory, together with the observations taken at the Observatory itself. Considerable interest in these maps has been evinced by the students themselves, and by visitors to the Laboratories.

The formation of the department of Meteorology has made it possible for the University to take part in the work of the International Committee for the investigation of the upper atmosphere. With this object in view, a site has been chosen on the Derbyshire moors where a station has been erected from which periodical kite ascents can be made. The station is fitted with a small steam engine for paying out and winding in the steel wire to which the kites are attached, and all the necessary appliances for the work are being installed.

The use of kites for meteorological purposes has proved of great value during the last few years; much work in this direction having been done in Germany and in this country by Mr. Dines in the neighbourhood of London. It may well be expected that with such an excellent situation as that found for the new station, this successful work will be continued in connection with the Manchester University.