Armagh Observatory was founded in 1790 by Archbishop Richard Robinson, a wealthy and influential figure and the head of the Church of Ireland. It was the second observatory in Ireland and it is the oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland. The architect was Francis Johnston (1760-1829), a native of Armagh.
It was an important element in Archbishop Robinson’s overall plan for the city and the first director was Rev James Archibald Hamilton, rector of Cookstown and later rector of Mullabrack, who already had a small private observatory.
To mark the construction of the observatory, a commemorative medal was struck by George Mossop of Dublin and this bears the inscription, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’ These words from Psalm 19:1 also appear on the observatory building and on the seal of the governors of the observatory.
It is a most appropriate text for an observatory for the heavens, which are the handiwork of God, speak to us of the glory, the majesty and the power of God.