Wooley vd Riet R.


Professional Astronomer



In brief :
Famous for:
Astronomer Royal of England.
Director of South African Astronomical Observatory, 

Historical background :
Sir  Richard became the Astronomer Royale of England between 1956 – 1971.  He was the last person to combine the post of Astronomer Royale, as well as Director of the Royale Greenwich Observatory.  After him the posts were split.
Sir  Richard, on his retirement as Astronomer Royale of England, aged 65, became the first Director of
S.A.A.O. Although he was very active, his astronomy was a bit old fashioned and he was not very enthusiastic about new ideas.  [Glass]  He favoured Cambridge trained English personnel and disliked amateurs intensely.
M  Sc University of Cape Town.
Ph D Cambridge University.
Chief  Assistant at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
1937 – 1939:  First Assistant Observer Cambridge.
1939 – 1956: Director Commonwealth Observatory at Mount Stromlo in Australia.
1956 – 1971: Astronomer Royale of England.
1971:  Retire as Astronomer Royale.
1971 – 1976: Became the first Director of the South African Astronomical Observatory.
Woolley  was a good tennis and cricket player.
Wooley never had any children of his own. He was however very popular amongst children. [Personal communication with Greg Roberts]
1986: December 24: Died (80 years)

According to a British Scientist named Desmond King-Hele , Sir Richard is the reason why Britain after World War Two never developed missiles of its own. As Astronomer Royale he perceived space exploration as a waste of money and it could be better spent on Astronomy.  [Robert’s, pp.50-51]


Link to the Main Bibliography Section and more information about Sources.

Remaining Artifacts:
Glass  I.S., Early Days at S.A.A.O., MNASSA, Vol. 60, Nos. 1 & 2,
Moore, P. & Collins, P., Astronomy in Southern Africa, p.21; pp.86  – 91.  (General Source)
Roberts, G., “Amateur optical tracking in South Africa during 1957 to 2014., MNASSA, Vol. 73, Nos. 3 & 4, April 2014.
Smits, P., A Brief History of Astronomy in Southern Africa. (Unpublished)
The  South African Astronomical Observatory, p.2.
(Publication of SAAO, no author, no date)
.By van der Riet Woolley:

Related Internal Links:
Related External Links:
Historical Astronomical Posts in Britain and Ireland




Sir Richard Woolley van der Riet.
Source: Laing