Guide to the Papers of Ben Gascoigne


MS Acc08.033

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Ben Gascoigne
Papers of Ben Gascoigne
Date Range
Collection Number
MS Acc08.033
3.6 metres (24 boxes + 1 folio)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

These papers were collected by S C B [Ben] Gascoigne who joined the staff of Mt Stromlo Observatory in 1942 after education in New Zealand and Bristol University. He retired from Mt Stromlo in 1980. His work at Mt Stromlo initially involved the production of optical munitions during the Second World War but once that finished he played a significant part in the development of Mt Stromlo Observatory as a centre for studies of the Magellanic Clouds, in the design and operation of its telescopes and in the training of astronomers at the Australian National University (ANU). From the early 1960s until 1975 he was a major player in the planning, construction and commissioning of the Anglo Australian Telescope (AAT) at Siding Spring NSW. Following his retirement in 1980 he was co-author of an official history of the AAT and wrote many pieces on the history of Australian astronomy and various astronomers he had worked with.

Ben Gascoigne's wife, Rosalie Gascoigne, was a distinguished Australian artist active in the years1974-1999 and the archive throws light on their years together, especially the early years and the supporting role Ben played in her career. The papers complement Rosalie's and other family papers which will also be deposited with the National Library.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Ben Gascoigne, National Library of Australia, MS Acc08.033, [box number and series and/or file number]'.

Finding Aid Source(s)

Prepared by Martin Gascoigne, February 2008.

Item Descriptions

Series. Overview of SCBG's career

Overview (File) - Box 1

Includes the Personal Statement written for the Australian Academy of Science, and copies of SCBG's publications, including most scientific papers and historical and biographical writings. One folder relates to honours. The career statement includes information on additional sources, including a family history and extended interviews done for the National Library of Australia, Australian National University and Australian Academy of Science.

Series. Family, Education, Rosalie

New Zealand and Bristol years (File) - Box 2

Includes papers on his family history, childhood and family, his education at Auckland Boys Grammar, Auckland University College, Bristol University, and correspondence with friends from that time. Scientific papers published by his Bristol supervisors at the time are in Box 20.

Family matters, Rosalie and Ben, and life on Mt Stromlo (File) - Box 3

Includes some early correspondence with Rosalie 1938-41 and memorabilia from early years of marriage; papers relating to his appointment at Mt Stromlo and life on the mountain; Rosalie's death - funeral, obituaries and condolence letters; two address books, one from late 1950s, one from early 2000s. Family memorabilia - children, grandchildren, cooking. Also later correspondence with and papers about his family.

House (File) - Box 4

Papers relating to the family houses, especially the one at Pearce, built in 1968-69, for which there are architect's plans and drawings; also folders on construction of Rosalie's studio in 1983, subsequent modifications of house and landscaping.

SCBG's interest in the arts, primarily 1980-2007 (File) - Box 5

Papers include working notes and early versions of his catalogue of Rosalie's works; correspondence relating to Rosalie's career and other arts-related subjects; exchanges with Hannah Fink regarding Rosalie; papers reflecting SCBG's interest in poetry, including letters from Rosemary Dobson; correspondence with artists, including folder on Marti Friedlander [NZ] and folder with papers from Jan Brown, Marie Hagerty, Ian North, Carl Plate and daughter Miro Taylor, and Matt Kelso.

Series. Mt Stromlo and the ANU

Mt Stromlo (File) - Box 6

Includes papers relating to SCBG's employment at ANU 1957-1980. There is a folder on problems with 50” telescope in 1950s; memorabilia of site-testing program 1957-1961; a folder of SCBG's recollections of Mt Stromlo, including publications; documents on Mt Stromlo in 1939-45 war; notes on Siding Spring Observatory; correspondence with Ros Haynes regarding her history of Mt Stromlo; miscellaneous other descriptions of Mt Stromlo 1957-2000; extracts of draft conservation plan for Mt Stromlo. See Box 8 for papers on Mt Stromlo colleagues and 9 for papers relating to Mt Stromlo involvement in proposal for Anglo-Australian Telescope.

Travel (File) - Box 7

Papers including visit reports relating to SCBG's business-related overseas travels1955-1987; also three passports, his collection of maps and postcards of places visited. [Files document two trips Rosalie when accompanied Ben, in 1963 and 1970, as well as his absences overseas when Rosalie stayed in Canberra.]

Astronomer colleagues and friends (File) - Box 8

Box includes biographical notes, papers, references, and obituaries by or about people SCBG worked with or wrote about (he wrote four entries for the Australian Dictionary of Biography on Australian astronomers). Box includes folders on C W Allen, Bart Bok, Olin Eggen, W B Rimmer, Antoni Przybylski, Sir Richard Woolley and other Mt Stromlo people. Also folders on John Bolton, Robert Hanbury Brown, David Jauncey, David Malin, and other astronomers. Some folders include some correspondence.

Series. Anglo Australian Telescope Project

Note: It is not always clear which folders comprise papers accumulated by SCBG at the time and which contain later papers gathered in the course of researching the official history of the AAT.

Papers, 1959-1968 (File) - Box 9

Pre 1967 developments and considerations. Arranged chronologically, these papers reflect and Ben's involvement in and an ANU perspective on promoting and planning the Anglo Australian Telescope. Includes copies of correspondence between Australian and UK astronomers; records of joint meetings; and the possibility of US involvement. See also Box 11 for later ANU involvement.

Post 1967 papers (File) - Box 10

Technical committee reports on telescope design 1967-68; Joint Policy Committee decisions 1967-70; papers relating to two Anglo Australia Telescope Board meetings

Problems with ANU, 1968-73 (File) - Box 11

A chronological folder of papers; includes folders of Olin Eggen's papers.

Optics (File) - Box 12

Files on mirror figuring and Grubb Parsons contract (1968-72); optics and HGP, Primary Stage II (1972-73); prime focus correctors 2 (1971-73; corrector specifications and contract; optical design; Grubb Parsons contract; primary mirror - final tests (including ITEK reduction).

Optics (continued) and Other Instrumentation (File) - Box 13

Optics 1969-70; tenders for mirror blank; 1973 Willstrop diffraction results; final Grubb Parsons tests; final optical test data (Hartmann) (1974); optics - SCBG workbooks; miscellaneous optics; AAT instruments - early plans, photometers, prime focus camera; Photometers; Spectrograph.

Control Systems (File) - Box 14

Telescope drive and control system, including computer system 1967-1975; includes description of completed system about 1975; Computer design study report; Astronomers Working Party (Rogers Committee) reports; W A Goodsell papers 1972-75

Commissioning (File) - Box 15

Folder of assorted papers and correspondence May 1972- June 1975; folder Commissioning (especially RO Redman and RV Willstrop correspondence); Sequence file ”SCB Gascoigne Aug 1973-May 1975”; SCBG's red workbook and notes; Folder of Pointing tests Sept 1974

AAT Official History (File) - Box 16

Includes folder of correspondence 1984-94 including comments on drafts and book reviews; SCBG's working papers, including his work book and early planning papers; other accounts of AAT history, most of them by participants; SCBG's collection of newspaper cuttings; other AAT publications about its history and role. SCBG's working papers include notes on archival resources in UK and Australia

Series. Astronomical history

Great Melbourne Telescope (File) - Box 17

Papers include correspondence 1993-1998; background documents, including reports of the Board of Visitors and of the Government Astronomer Victoria 1861-1911; other accounts of the telescope history

Astronomy in Colonial Australia (File) - Box 18

Papers include correspondence and research notes relating to an article on Ellery; papers on colonial astronomy and astronomers, and on Sydney and Perth observatories; correspondence with Wayne Orchiston about colonial astronomy.

Bicentennial history of Australian science (File) - Box 19

Correspondence 1981-87 relating to SCBG's history of Australian astronomy for Academy of Science's Bicentennial History (ed. R W Home); other histories by astronomers (especially radio astronomers)

Series. Scientific Papers [other authors]

Scientific papers on Telescope Design (File) - Box 20

Folders of scientific papers by C R Burch; E.H. Linfoot; I S Bowen; R.N. Wilson; Kitt Peak National Observatory 1963-68; three folders of other papers on the subject, including European Southern Observatory 1989.

Note: some papers are inscribed to SCBG. Burch and Linfoot were Bristol colleagues and some papers date from those days.

Scientific papers; future of Australian astronomy; astronomy in New Zealand (File) - Box 21

Collected scientific papers 1951-2002 with folders on optical astronomy and radio astronomy [mostly 1960s]. some inscribed to SCBG. Folder of papers on future of Australian astronomy since the AAT. Folder on history of UK astronomy; folder on astronomy in New Zealand.

Series. Retirement

Correspondence 1980 onwards (File) - Box 22

Folders of miscellaneous correspondence 1980-2006 on astronomical history projects and other matters where SCBG's expertise was sought or reflecting his interests, or reflecting later contact with Australian and overseas astronomers/colleagues; correspondence with R W Home on astronomical history; and with/about the Astronomical Association of Australia.

Series. Various

Diaries; order of service for funeral of Ben Gascoigne (File) - Box 23