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Astronomer Royal is a senior post in the Royal Households of the United Kingdom. There are two officers, the senior being the Astronomer Royal dating from 22 June 1675; the second is the Astronomer Royal for Scotland dating from 1834.
The post was created by King Charles II in 1675, at the same time as he founded the Royal Observatory Greenwich. He appointed John Flamsteed, instructing him "forthwith to apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so-much desired longitude of places, for the perfecting the art of navigation."
The Astronomer Royal was director of the Royal Observatory Greenwich from the establishment of the post in 1675 until 1972. The Astronomer Royal became an honorary title in 1972 without executive responsibilities and a separate post of Director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory was created to manage the institution.
The Astronomer Royal today receives a stipend of 100 GBP per year and is a member of the Royal Household, under the general authority of the Lord Chamberlain. After the separation of the two offices, the position of Astronomer Royal has been largely honorary, though he remains available to advise the Sovereign on astronomical and related scientific matters, and the office is of great prestige.
There was also formerly a Royal Astronomer of Ireland.
- 1675–1719 John Flamsteed
- 1720–1742 Edmond Halley
- 1742–1762 James Bradley
- 1762–1764 Nathaniel Bliss
- 1765–1811 Nevil Maskelyne
- 1811–1835 John Pond
- 1835–1881 Sir George Biddell Airy
- 1881–1910 Sir William Christie
- 1910–1933 Sir Frank Dyson
- 1933–1955 Sir Harold Spencer Jones
- 1956–1971 Sir Richard van Riet Woolley
- 1972–1982 Sir Martin Ryle
- 1982–1990 Sir Francis Graham-Smith
- 1991–1995 Sir Arnold Wolfendale
- 1995–present Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow
- F Baily, "An Account of the Rev. John Flamsteed", reprinted in vol.28,at p.293. "The Museum of foreign literature, science and art", R Walsh et al., publ. E Litell, 1836.
- Forbes, Eric G. (1975). Greenwich Observatory, volume 1: Origins and Early History (1675–1835). London: Taylor & Francis. Bibcode:1975gosb.book.....F.
- McCrea, William Hunter (1975). Royal Greenwich Observatory : an Historical Review Issued on the Occasion of its Tercentenary. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Bibcode:1975rgo..book.....M.
- Meadows, A. J. (1975). Greenwich Observatory, volume 2: Recent History (1836–1975). London: Taylor & Francis. Bibcode:1975gosb.book.....F.
- "Astronomer Royal". The British Monarchy. Royal Household. Retrieved 30 January 2016.