Ken Budd Memorial Lecture – Saturday 15th October 2005

Saturday evening saw members gathering at Newstead Wood School to celebrate the Society’s 25th Anniversary and to host the third public Ken Budd Memorial Lecture. A fine exhibition of images, posters, telescopes and slide-shows was on display.

Professor Paul Murdin of the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, delivered the lecture; a most interesting account about the history of the Paris Meridian with the title “The Metre and the Shape of the Earth”. The Meridian was first surveyed in the 17th century as part of an effort to map France accurately. The original baseline is still present on modern maps, having turned first into a track, then a road and now a six-lane motorway. Several colourful characters were involved, both in the survey effort, and in subsequent investigations which aimed to determine the shape of the Earth. Arguably the most colourful, especially if his own accounts of his adventures are to be believed, was Francois Arago. A series of bronze discs bearing his name now mark the line of the Meridian through Paris. The Greenwich Meridian was adopted as the Earth’s prime meridian at the Washington Conference in 1884, but the Paris Meridian still has a place in the history of navigation and geodesy.

After a break for refreshments and a quick look at the Moon, and a short session of questions arising from the lecture, the brief closing speeches and vote of thanks brought a most enjoyable and informative evening to a close.

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