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Our origins


Sydney City Skywatchers was previously called the New South Wales Branch of the British Astronomical Association (BAA NSW). The first official meeting was held on 30 January 1895 at the Royal Geographical Society, located at Bridge Street Sydney. The aim of the group was to form an ‘association of all interested in astronomy for mutual help’ ( John Tebbutt F.R.A.S. was unanimously elected as the first president and George H. Knibbs and Robert T. A. Innes F.R.A.S. were elected Vice Presidents. The treasurer was T. W. Craven and secretary Walter F. Gale. On the council were Dr. Meggineon, Charles J. Merfield, H. Wright, F. D. Edmonds and R. D. Lewers. Sixty-one members, women and men, were nominated, and over the course of the next few meetings over forty people were accepted as members.  


In the first few years, the popular astronomy group established observing groups and its activities were reported in the local newspapers. The Presidents included leading professional astronomers, for example, Charles Merfield and James Nangle,  and amateur astronomers whose research contributed to global astronomy knowledge, for example, William John MacDonnell (pictured below with his new telescope), Walter Gale and our previous president, Monty Leventhal OAM.  There were strong ties with Sydney Observatory with Government Astronomers, astronomers, technicians and astronomy guides occasionally serving as presidents. The first woman president was Elizabeth Budek in 2001.

In 2004 the BAA NSW was renamed Sydney City Skywatchers to better reflect the city focus of its members, the group meetings and outreach activities. The society is affiliated with the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and the British Astronomical Association.


Presidents of the BAA (NSW) & Sydney City Skywatchers

Presidents can serve a maximum of 2 years consecutively unless there are extra-ordinary circumstances.


John Tebbutt 1894-1896

George Handley Knibbs 1896-1898

Rev. Thomas Roseby 1898-1900

Walter Frederick Gale1900-1902

William John MacDonnell1902-1904

George Denton Hirst 1904-1906

Charles J. Merfield 1906-1907

Hugh Wright 1907-1909

James Nangle1909-1911

Rev. Thomas Roseby 1911-1914

Walter Frederick Gale 1914-1923

Rev. Edward F. Pigot 1923-1925

J. J. Richardson 1925-1927

Walter Frederick Gale 1927-1929

James Nangle 1929-1930

Walter Frederick Gale 1930-1932 & 1932-1933

Rev. William O'Leary 1933-1934 & 1934-1935

Walter Frederick Gale 1935-1936

Alan Patrick Mackerras 1936-1937

Walter Frederick Gale 1937-1938 & 1938-1939

Henry Herbert Baker 1939-1940

Harley Weston Wood 1940-1942

Walter Frederick Gale 1942-1943

Alan Patrick Mackerras 1943-1945

Horace Edgar Frank Pinnock 1945-1946

Alan Patrick Mackerras 1946-1947

William. H. Robertson 1947-1950

D. Coleman-Trainor 1950-1951

Alan Patrick Mackerras 1951-1954

Harley Weston Wood 1954-1956

Rev. Thomas Noel Burke-Gaffney 1956-1958

W. Kemp Robertson 1958-1960

F. J. Bannister 1960-1962

Alan Patrick Mackerras 1962-1964

William. Humphrey Robertson 1964-1966

Noel James Halsey Bissaker 1966-1968

W. Swanston 1968-1971

W. E. Moser 1971-1974

Ken Sims 1974-1976

R. Giller 1976-1978

T. L. Morgan 1978-1979

Frank N. Traynor 1979-1981

S. J. Elwin 1981-1982

Frank N. Traynor 1982-1984

J. Jackson 1984-1986

Colin Bembrick 1986-1988

Alan Yates 1988-1990

George Smith 1990-1994

Monty Leventhal 1995-1996

Ralph Buttigieg 1996-1998

Michael Chapman 1998-2000

Wayne Orchiston F.R.A.S. 2000-2001

Elizabeth Budek 2001-2003

Michael Chapman 2003-2016

Monty Leventhal OAM 2016-2019

Toner Stevenson 2019-2021

Ann Cairns 2021-2023

Andrew Wood, elected in 2023


Blog entry Dr Nick Lomb 2012, Sydney Observatory blog site, MAAS.

Orchiston, W.; Perdrix, J. (April 2002), "A history of the British Astronomical Association in Australia: the fate of the Branches", Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 112(2): 68–77, Bibcode:2002JBAA..112...68O

Image: William John MacDonnell, President 1902-1904. A rare picture of William John MacDonnell sitting in front of his newly installed 4¾-inch (12.1-cm) lens telescope by Parkes of Birmingham on 15 December 1907. Picture courtesy MAAS.


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