Glasgow’s East End has a history of star gazing; reaching out beyond the sky searching for answers that enlighten the reality we exist in. In 1775 on the former grounds of Glasgow University—in between Duke and Bell Street—the MacFarlane Observatory was built to house telescopic instruments bequeathed to the University by former graduate Alexander MacFarlane, following his death in Jamaica. Once built, and the astronomical instruments repaired by a young James Watt, this site would occupy a role in celestial discoveries, particularly Alexander Wilson's research on sunspots which would lead to his observations on the 'Wilson Effect'—the flattening of the penumbra as it moved to the suns limb confirming that rather than being shadowy profiles of planetary objects moving in between the sun and Earth they were in fact features (depressions in the generally spherical photosphere) on the sun's surface. The story of this site, now fractured into a railway station, car parks, apartment blocks and wasteland along with the observatory equipment (now located in the Hunterian Museum) would intersect with historical moments in the progression of the Scottish Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, both of which have had influential roles in shaping the fabric of the East End.

Kit Mead. August 2014.

Kit Mead
The Wilson Effect