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Image
L8070
Object
ZBA5194
Artist
William Heath Robinson
Date
1909
Medium
Pen ink; monochrome watercolour; paper
Size
420 mm x 290 mm
Preview

L8070

Searching for Halley's Comet at Greenwich Observatory

The cartoon was reproduced in 1909, anticipating the 1910 return of Halley’s Comet on 20 April 1910. It shows several scientists on the roof of what appears to be the rear extension of Flamsteed House, probably including employees of the Observatory. Heath Robinson was best known for his humorous drawings of mechanical inventions. The focus of the humourous drawing is on the telescopic equipment, including a series of additional lenses being held up to achieve maximum possible magnification. The small, mischievously smiling comet appears at the top right.
This light-hearted take on astronomy's endless quest for bigger and better telescopes illustrates the growing popular interest in astronomy, particularly surrounding events such as the return of Halley’s Comet, and demonstrates that the Royal Observatory has long been intimately connected in the popular imagination with such important moments in astronomy.

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London