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CSO Administration Buildings

The Commonwealth Solar Observatory was established on 1 January 1924, on Mount Stromlo, on the outskirts of Canberra. It was founded to study the sun and geophysics, and W.G. Duffield was the first Director. At the end of 1939, Dr R. v.d.R. Woolley became Director, aiming to completely change the emphasis of the CSO's study to stellar astronomy and astrophysics; however, his plans had to be delayed for almost five years.

Soon after the start of the Second World War, Woolley was asked to attend the first meeting of the Optical Munitions Panel along with T.H. Laby and L.J. Hartnett. Thus, both Woolley and the CSO became involved in the work of the Panel from beginning to end. At this time, the CSO staff included the following men:

Commonwealth Solar Observatory Mechanical Workshop with Staff, 1946

The CSO computed designs for many instruments, including sighting telescopes and periscopes, and it fulfilled eleven different contracts for the construction of optical munitions. The first optical munition to be made in Australia was designed at the CSO.

The CSO received grant money from the Department of Munitions to conduct research and undertake tests in relation to optical munitions, as well as for the establishment of a mechanical workshop for related optics production. After sorting out some initial communication and quality control problems, the CSO became a very professional glass working centre.

The CSO workshops produced many lenses and prisms, and Mount Stromlo Observatory still maintains a position as a world-leader in optical systems. The CSO staff involved in the optical munitions work were pioneers in the production of these optics, and people from most of the Optical Munitions Panel associated firms made a visit to the CSO to learn how to improve the standard of their optics work.

By the end of 1943 the CSO had such expertise and equipment that it was possible for them to produce new optical instruments, from the initial design through to the finished piece, without any outside help.

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Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 30 April 1997
Comments or corrections to: Bright Sparcs (bsparcs@asap.unimelb.edu.au)
Prepared by: Denise Sutherland and Elissa Tenkate
Updated by: Joanne Evans
Date modified: 4 January 1999

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