William John Macdonnell (1842-1910), amateur astronomer, sitting in front of his observatory in his home at Mosman, New South Wales, 23 January 1910.

William John Macdonnell was one of the leading amateur astronomers in New South Wales in the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1907 he acquired a 4 ¾ inch (12.1 cm) refractor telescope by James Parkes & Son, Birmingham, pictured here.

Description of Content

Group of four people sitting and standing in front of a backyard observatory. People from left to right are: William John Macdonnell; George Denton Hirst, amateur astronomer and close friend of Macdonnell; Emily Macdonnell (nee Goddard), Macdonnel's wife, who assisted in his observations; third male unidentified.

Physical Description

Original image black and white print pasted onto mounting board.


Photographs of amateur astronomers and their observatories in Australia in the 19th and early 20th centuries are rare. This photograph and related images provide an insight into the role of amateur astronomers in the development of astronomy in Australia. William John Macdonnell was, along with John Tebbutt, the most significant amateur astronomer in New South Wales in the second half of the 19th century.

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