Group portrait of assistant staff at Melbourne Observatory, in front of the East Transit Room, circa March 1898.

Government Astronomer Robert Ellery retired in 1895, and was replaced by Pietro Baracchi, who became Acting Government Astronomer. This group portrait appears to have been taken in the same sitting as a very similar portrait photograph published in the Weekly Times, 12 March 1898, p.14.

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Group portrait of staff at Melbourne Observatory, standing in front of the East Transit Room, circa March 1898. Staff depicted, idenitifed from the caption to a similar photograph published 12 March 1898 in the Weekly Times, are: Rear, L-R: Daniel Hodge, James J. Mannix (messenger), Frederick N. Ingamells (meteorological & general assistant), James Byrne (mechanical attendant) Front, L-R: William J. Wallace (assistant astronomer), Frederick Kemp (assistant astronomer), Edwin T. Quayle (meteorological assistant), William J. Swan (assistant astronomer) Other staff at this time who are not present in this photograph include: George Long (messenger and meteorological assistant), Pietro Baracchi (Acting Government Astronomer)


This is the only known group portrait of Melbourne Observatory staff from the nineteenth century, when the observatory was the leading scientific institution in Victoria, and the largest observatory in Australia. Based on the individuals in the photograph, it was probably taken around 1898, after Government Astronomer Robert Ellery had retired. He was replaced by Pietro Baracchi as Acting Government Astronomer and later as Government Astronomer.

The complement of staff was slightly less than it had been in the 1880s and early 1890s, as government budget cuts in response to the 1890s recession forced two staff into early retirement. From 1898 the staff levels had again increased, with the employment of several young men and women to work as 'computers' analysing and reducing meteorological, magnetic and astronomical observations.

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