The History of Leith

August 24, 2012

The City Observatory

In 1776 there came to Edinburgh Mr. Short,
brother and executor to Mr. James Short, F.R.S.,
formerly an optician in Leith, and who brought with
him all his brother’s optical apparatus, particularly
a large reflecting telescope that magnified 1,200
times, ” and is,” says the Weekly Magazine for
that year, ” superior to any in Europe, but one in
possession of the King of Spain.” Mr. Short
intended to erect an observatory, which was to
be his own private property, and from which he
expected to draw considerable emoluments; but
Dr. Alexander Monro, Professor of Anatomy, one
of Lord Morton’s trustees, showed that an observatory
unconnected with the Council and University
would conduce but little to the progress of science,
and proposed to give Mr. Short the funds at their
disposal for the purpose of building an observatory,
and to allow him to draw the whole emoluments
arising from the use of his apparatus for a certain
number of years ; ” but,” says Arnot, ” on condition
that the studenl^ should, in the meantime,
have access to the observatory for a small gratuity,
and that the building, with all the instruments, should
be vested in the Town Council for ever, as trustees
for the public, and become their absolute property
It appears from their Register that in the
summer of 1776 the Council granted to Mr. Short,
his sons and grandsons, a life-rent lease of
half an acre on the Gallon Hill. A plan of the
intended building was made by James Craig,
architect, and the foundation-stone was laid by
Provost James Stodart, in presence of the Senatus,
25th July, 1776 ; and upon the suggestion of Adam,
the famous architect, in consequence of the high
and abrupt nature of the site, the whole edifice was
constructed to have the aspect of a fortification

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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