The oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland & groundbreaking architecture

Armagh Observatory was established by Richard Robinson, Archbishop of Armagh, in 1789. Robinson was not only the leader of the Church of Ireland but was also a multi-millionaire by today’s standards and as an ‘enlightened’ man used his wealth to found charitable and educational institutions. He employed two of the finest architects of his day: Thomas Cooley and Francis Johnston to design this observatory, for his Cathedral City. The observatory was the second to be established in Ireland after Dunsink in Dublin and is now the oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland. The most important aspect of its design was for the stability of the instruments which unlike other observatory took priority over aesthetic considerations. In this way, any vibrations originating in the main part of the structure were not transmitted to the instruments. These principles of construction have been employed in most subsequent observatory buildings throughout the world. The building has also some of the best-preserved c.18th interiors in Northern Ireland. These include unusual features like curved corners to the rooms and bowed chimney breasts. It is now a modern astronomical research institute and one of the UK and Ireland’s leading scientific research establishments. Around 25 astronomers are actively studying Stellar Astrophysics, the Sun, Solar System astronomy, and the Earth’s climate here.