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Human Computers at the Greenwich Observatory and the Nautical Almanac Office 1765-1925

Much of the work done at the Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Nautical Almanac Office during the period 1765 to 1925 involved making tables of astronomical data and was done by hand by human computers. This project aims to look at the background, education and later careers of the computers involved, what mathematical methods and computing techniques they used, their contribution to the work of successive Astronomer Royals, and what interactions they had with other institutions or individuals. These issues will be considered within the context of rapidly developing navigational aids and astronomical research and the social, economic and labour issues of this class of worker.

The main sources for the project will be the Royal Greenwich Observatory archives held at Cambridge University Library, manuscript and printed collections of the National Maritime Museum, and collections held at the British Library.

Investigator: Mary Croarken, Sackler Research Fellow, National Maritime Museum