Museum of Astronomy and Geodesy

Museo de Astronomía y Geodesia

Collections

The Museum of Astronomy and Geodesy of The Complutense University brings together a large collection of 19th and 20th century instruments of Astronomy, Geodesy and Topography. It was collected by Dr. José María Menéndez Torroja (1916-1994) and his collaborative team. The collection was designed to have a didactic purpose: to exhibit the development of instruments and methods used in those disciplines over the past 150 years.

Some of the instruments were used in the most important geodetic works made in Spain in the second half of the 19th century, such as the implementation of the basic geodetic network and the first Spanish geodetic link between Europe and Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar, both of which were managed by  General Ibáñez de Ibero.


History

The Museum was established in 1995. The pieces constituting the collection had been collected since 1950 after various instruments were located in different places such as at the buildings of the former Central University.

The museum is located in the Faculty of Mathematical Sciences. Due to the small size and limited capacity of the gallery, only part of the collection is currently exhibited, the rest is properly stored and preserved.

There is a special section gathering instruments used in experiments by The Complutense faculties “Bongera” and “Torroja” regarding natural phenomena such as solar eclipses. They allow us to observe, to measure and to calculate coordinate distances at the same reference system.

Special attention should be paid to the cameras, which were built in the workshops of the Faculty. They calculated  the time of the electrical contacts of the eclipse with great precision. This method was applied with great success in 1952, in Kogo (Guinea), and in 1954 in Sydkoster (Sweden).

The ballistic camera took part in the first geodetic satellite link between Spain and the rest of Europe, conducted from 1968 to 1972.