Edinburgh has scrutinised space since 1786, when the first chair of astronomy was appointed at the University of Edinburgh. It was the work of Professor Thomas James Henderson, in conjunction with the establishment of the Royal Observatory in 1896, that first brought us significantly ‘closer to the stars’. He was the first to calculate the distance to Alpha Centauri, the major component of the nearest stellar system to Earth.
Meanwhile, in 1864, the famous Edinburgh-born physicist James Clerk Maxwell showed that electricity and magnetism were part of the same force: electromagnetism. This discovery laid the foundation for Einstein’s theory of relativity, used to calculate the orbit of celestial objects and the behaviour of particles. Read more »