The Celsius Observatory (1741-1852)   The Old Observatory (1853-2000)   The Ångström Laboratory (2000- )
History of astronomy in Uppsala

A brief history of astronomy at Uppsala University

Uppsala university was founded in 1477 and is the oldest of the Nordic universities. Preserved lecture notes from the 1480's show that lectures in astronomy were given at the philosophical faculty. There is no certain evidence of a professorship in astronomy until 1593 when the university was reerected after a period of decline following the Lutheran reformation.

An observatory, a tower built on the roof of a professor's house, existed already in the 1650's. Professor Anders Spole also created an observatory on his roof in 1680, which was destroyed by the devastating city fire of 1702. The first real observatory though was the Celsius observatory in the centre of Uppsala, founded through the efforts of the famous astronomy professor Anders Celsius in 1741.

The Old observatory, situated in the central parts of Uppsala today, was inaugurated in 1853 and received its first main instrument, a 9 inch refractor in 1860. The use of the photographic technique in astronomy began in Uppsala with the installation of a double refractor in 1893. The first wide-field telescope, an astrograph, was installed in 1914.
The light pollution due to the expansion of Uppsala was amended through the donation of the formerly privately-owned Kvistaberg observatory in 1944.
Uppsala southern station at the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring observatories in Australia was founded in 1956 for observations in the southern hemisphere.

In 2000, after almost 150 years in the Observatory park, the astronomy department moved to offices in the new Ångström Laboratory and also merged with the Institute of space physics to become the Department of astronomy and space physics which, in 2008, became a division within the Department of physics and astronomy.

Examples of areas of research pursued since the beginning of the 20th century are: stellar parallaxes, stellar statistics, galactic structure, external galaxies, stellar atmospheres and solar system research. Among leading astronomers who have worked at Uppsala were: Carl Charlier, Bertil Lindblad, Knut Lundmark and Yngve Öhman (in their early career) and mainly in Uppsala: Hugo von Zeipel, Gunnar Malmquist, Erik Holmberg and Bengt Westerlund.

  • A brief history in Swedish - Astronomins historia vid Uppsala universitet
  • Publications   (1900-1950)
  • Professors   (1593- )     - the old professorships
  • Astronomy in Sweden   (1860-1940)
  • Astronomiæ Historia  -  History of Astronomy
  • Museum Gustavianum  -  Uppsala University Museum
  • Uppsala University  -  History
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