Belgrade Astronomical Observatory is one of the oldest scientific institutions in Serbia and the only autonomous astronomical institute in Yugoslavia. Its past development forms an important part of the history of science and culture in these regions. The decree of its founding conjointly with the Meteorological Observatory was signed on 20 March (7 April) 1887 by the Minister of Education and Church Affaires of Kingdom of Serbia Milan Kujundzic on the initiative of Milan Nedeljkovic (Belgrade 27. Sept. 1857 - Belgarde 27 Dec. 1950), a professor of the Grand School (Belgarde University). Nedeljkovic was appointed first director of the newly founded Observatory.
On 1 May 1871 Nedeljkovic started his activity at the provisory Observatory in the rented Geizler family's house. Here the Observatory was operating until 1 May 1891, when it was moved into its own building constructed meanwhile - the one in which at present is Meteorological Observatory in the Karadjordje Park. In the minor museum section of this building there is, since the celebration of the Observatory's centenary in 1987, a room dedicated to the origins of astronomical science in Yugoslavia.
Nedeljkovic was at the head of the Observatory from 26 March (7 April) 1887 until 30 Jan 1924. A break took place only between 5 July 1899 and 31 Oct 1900, when he was sent into retirement for political reasons, in connection with the Ivandan attempt on King Milan, which was exploited by King Alexander for settling accounts with his political oponents. Nedeljkovic's place was filled during this period by Djordje Stanojevic (Negotin, 7 April 1858 - Paris 24 Dec. 1921), the first Serbian astrophysicist, later on the rector of Belgrade University. Dj. Stanojevic was a great popularizer of astronomy and science in general; he was the driving force in the introduction of electrical light in Belgrade, Uzice, Cacak, Leskovac. He was the builder of the first hydro-electric power station in Serbia, a pioneer of industry of refrigerating appliances, the initiator of setting up a committee for cooling problems and of forming an international organization for cooling technique in Paris in 1903. He was also the pioneer of the color photogaphy in Serbia.
Apart from its importance for astronomy and meteorology, the newly built Observatory, headed by Nedeljkovic, was a cradle of the seismic and geomagnetic researches in Serbia. Nedeljkovic borrowed the instruments for geomagnetic measurements from Tege Miklosh Konkoly, the founder of the Budapest Astronomical Observatory, and took care of building an earth-magnetism pavilion. Thanks to Konkoly Nedeljkovic acquired in 1903 also a seismograph, installed next year in a special pavilion. The observations were carried out regularly and for these purposes the construction of what at present is the Seismological Institute was executed in 1906. This activity was taken over by Nedeljkovic's assistant Jelenko Mihailovic (Vrbica, 11 Jan. 1869 - Belgrade 10 Oct. 1958) who worked at the Observatory since 1896.
During the Austro-Hungarian occupation in World War I the Observatory was administred by Victor Konrad from Vienna. During their flight from Serbia the Austrians took away or destroyed all the instruments. However, thanks to his extraordinary and professional skill Nedeljkovic contrived to acquire in Germany after the war, on account of war reparations, a number of instruments appertaining equipment for the new Observatory.
The instruments procured by Nedeljkovic constitute still practically the only observing basis of the Observatory, although some of them were taken away by the Germans during the World War II, two were ceded to each Ljubljana and Zagreb Universities (Djurkovic 1968), some of the smaller ones being left unmounted.
Currently mounted in appropriate pavilions are the following instruments procured by Nedeljkovic:
As Nedeljkovic was struggling for the new Observatory at which the acquired instruments were to be mounted and regular astronomical observations started, he suddenly was sent into retirement on 30 Jan. 1924. By ruling of the Faculty Council the Observatory was divided into two separate institutions: Astronomical Observatory and Meteorological Observatory of Belgrade University.
At the head of the Astronomical Observatory was appointed in 1925 Vojislav V. Miskovic (Fuzine 18 Jan. 1892 - Belgrade 25 Nov. 1976), at the time already a well established astronomer engaged at Nice Observatory, France. He began his astronomical studies in Budapest and Gottingen before the World War I. On his demobilsation at the end of 1918 from the Serbian Army, in which he served as a voluntieer, he was sent to France to complete his studies. He graduated in 1919 and was appointed assistant at the Marseille Observatory. Since 1922 he was engaged as an astronomer at the Nice Observatory, receiving his doctor's degree in 1924 at the Montpellier University. In 1925 he won French Academy Prize for his studies in stellar statistics. In the period 1919-1925 he published a score of papers in the French scientific journals, treating the observation of the minor planets and comets and the determination of their orbits. He came to Belgarde in 1926 taking, in addition to the Astronomical Observatory, charge of the newly established Chair of Theoretical and Practical Astronomy at the Faculty of Philosophy, whereat he was elected associated professor. In 1929 he was elected corresponding member of the Serbian Royal Academy and in 1939 its full member. He directed the Observatory's activity to a considerable degree toward mathematical and numerical works, wich yielded valuable results. Of importance are numerical works connected with the Mathematical Climatology of M. Milankovic as well as with Miskovic's own Precession Tables.
In 1929 Miskovic succeeded in getting funds for the constructions of a new, modern, observatory, at 6km distance southeast from the city's centre, occupying a 4.5 ha area at 253 m high hill on Veliki Vracar, named since, along with the entire surrounding part of Belgrade, Zvezdara (=concerned with stars).
Sl. 1. Main building today. Front side with view on Photovisual Refractor dome, mountd on top of building.
Sl. 2. Main building, back view.
Exceptional and highly valued complex constituting the Astronomical Observatory was drawn up by Jan Dubovi, a member of GAMP (Group of Modern Outlook Architects) founded in 1928. It is thanks to this very achievement that Dubovi was conferred a doctor of science degree in Prague. The construction works were carried out in 1930 to 1932, the instruments being mounted during the following two years.
Miskovic started also publishing the scientific periodical Mémoires de l'Obs. Astr. Belgrade (issued five volumes for: 1932, 1933, 1936, 1938 and 1949), Annuaire de l'Obs. Astr. Belgarde (six volumes for 1929 through 1934) containing sidereal time, short-period nutation terms, the mean and apparent places of 189 stars, newly discovered minor planets and directions for use. Nauticki godisnjak (Nautical Almanc) for years 1934 through 1941) for navigation purpouses in the Navy and Godisnjak Naseg Neba (Almanac of our Sky) an astronmical calendar in Serbian, issued in the years 1930 to 1941 and 1948 to 1952 (the 1948 issue was edited by F. Dominko and the issues for 1949, 1950 and 1951 by B. Popovic.
In 1935 academician Miskovic assisted by P. Djurkovic (Srpska Trnova 1908 - Belgarde 5. Jan 1981) and F. Dominko (Vodnjan 26 July 1903 - Ljubljana 22 Feb. 1987) organized the Time and Longitude Service. In that same year Djurkovic determined Observatory's longitude. It was more accurately determined in 1938 under the direction of Miskovic in cooperation with the Military-Geographic Institute, at that time located at Kalimegdan.
In 1936 Miskovic, assisted by Milorad Protic, organized the Minor Planets and Sun Observation Service. In the same year P. Djurkovic discovered at the Uccle Observatory, Belgium, a minor planet, subsequently named 1605 Milankovic and M. Protic, at the Belgrade Observatory, discovered the minor planet 1564 Serbia, which marked the opening of a long series of 43 minor planets discovered by the Belgarde astronomers. Protic alone, in the period 1936-1956, made 33 discoveries. Of the 43 minor planets owing their discovery to Belgarde astronomers, 12 have obtained by the IAU permanent names, three of the discoveries having later been ascribed to other authors.
Besides Serbia, using his author's right, Protic gave the following names to the minor planets he discovered: 1507 Beograd, 1550 Tito, 1554 Yugoslavia, 1675 Simonida, 1724 Vladimir (after his grandson), 2244 Tesla and 2348 Miskovic. P. Djurkovic discovered in the period 1936-1941, 5 minor planets, one of them - Zvezdara- named by him using his discover's prerogative. In 1980 Z. Knezevic discovered on the photo-plates taken according to his instructions at Piszkesteto Observatory, Hungary, four minor planets, one of which having obtained the name 3276 Paolicchi, after one of his colleagues in Italy. In 1991, as a mark of honour, a minor planet was given the name 3900 Knezevic - after our fellow. Another minor planet connected with the Belgrade Observatory is that named 1555 Dejan, after P. Djurkovic's son. This activity, in time extended to include the comet observations, is currently conducted by Vojislava Protic-Benisek.
The founding in 1936 of the Minor Planet and Sun Observation Service denotes the completion of organization of the observing activity of the new Observatory. In that year Miskovic started issuing Bulletin de l'Observatoire astronomique de Belgrade, a scientific periodical which from No. 145 for 1992 on appears under the name Bulletin astronomique de Belgrade. This periodical's editors have been: V. V. Miskovic (1936-1940, 1943 -- 1948 and 1952-1956), M. Protic (1941-1942, 1955-1960 and 1971-1975), B. Popovic (1950), V. Oskanjan (1964), P. Djurkovic (1964-1970), M. Mijatov (Nos. 127-131 in 1976-1981), D. Zulevic (Nos. 132-133, in 1982-1983), Dj. Teleki (Nos. 134-136 in 1984-1986) and M. S. Dimitrijevic ( No. 137 in 1987 successively up to date).
Since July 1941 at the Observatory were quartered German military. The Wehrmacht brought along profs. Grotrian and Kippenheur from Potsdam, the two having inscribed the Observatory's instruments as German property, dispatching to Germany the spectroheliograph and the comet searcher. On the terraces of the Observaroty's edifice and on the water storage building pill-boxes were erected for directing the flak, while the library was turned into officers mess. In the course of the liberation fightings in 1944 particulary heavy damages were inflicted on the main edifice, the water storage building and on "Large Refractor" pavilion. The Observatory's reconstruction was undertaken immediately after the war. Miskovic remained its director until March 1946 when he submitted his resignation, accepted not before May 1948.
In 1945 P. Djurkovic started and edited the professional periodical Astonomska i Meteoroloska Saopstenja (Astronomical and Meteorological Reports), published by the Observatory up to 1950 (seven issues in all). In 1947 Observatory started the series Publikacije Astronomske Opservatorije u Beogradu (Publications of Astronomical Observatory). Its editors in chief were: V. Oskanjan (No. 10), P. Djurkovic (Nos. 12-16), M. Protic (Nos. 17-19, 20-21) Dj. Teleki (Nos. 20, 26, 32, 34 and 35), M. Mijatov (Nos. 24, 25, 27-31), G. Popovic (No. 33) and M. S. Dimitrijevic (Nos. 36-59).
During 1947 P. Djurkovic, B.Sevarlic and Zaharije Brkic ( Poljna 8 Nov. 1910 - Belgarde 24 April 1979) organized the Latitude Service wich, led by Sevarlic and Dj. Teleki (Senta 20 Aug. 1928 - Belgarde 23 Feb. 1987), was included into International Latitude Service on 7 October 1956. The Service was headed, after Sevarlic, who was active until 1963, by Dj. Teleki till 1968, Vladeta Milovanovic till 1972 and from then on until his retirement by Radomir Grujic.
Up to 1 July the Observatory was, as it was before the war, under the Belgarde University. From that date on, up to 18 Dec. 1950. it is under the iurisdiction of the Serbian Academy of Siences and thereafter, under the Committee for Scientific Institutions, University and Scools for Higher Education of SR Serbia. This status was kept until 27 March 1954, when the Observatory became institution with independent financing at the Executive Council of SR Serbia. On 9 Aug. 1985 the Observatory obtained the status of autonomous scientific research institute with the Executive Council of the Assembly of SR Serbia as its founder, its name changed into Astronomical Observatory - Institute for Astronomical Researches. At the time it was financed by the Republic Community of Sciences of SR Serbia. After Community's dissolution it is being financed by the Republic Fund for Sience of Serbia through the scientific project " Physics and Motion of Celestical Bodies and Artificial Eatrh's Satellites" (1985-1990). Leading the Project were: Dj. Teleki (1985-1987), A. Kubicela (1987-1989) and M. Dimitrijevic (1990). In the period 1991-1995 the Project is named "Physics and Motion of Celestical Bodies" and was led by M. Dimitrijevic (1991-1993) and Z. Knezevic (1993-1995). The Time and Latitude Services are financed directly from the budget of SR Serbia. On 12 May 1992 the Observatory became a scientific institute financed through the mentoined scientific project at the Republic Ministry for Science and Technology, its founder being the Government of Republic Serbia. On 20 Dec. 1994 the Obsevatory was re-registrated as a scientific institute, resuming its old name. For the period 1996-2000 the project is named "Astronomical, Astrodynamical and Astrophysical Researches", being led by Z. Knezevic.
When in May 1948 V. Miskovic's resignation was accepted, to the post of Observatory's director was appointed academician Milutin Milankovic (Dalj 28 May 1879 - Belgarde 12 Dec. 1958) who went down in history of science by his having explained the ice ages phenomenon through the slow changes in the Earth's insolation in consequence of the Earth's axis inclination and its motion around Sun, undergoing changes produced by various influences. Milankovic elucidated also the history of the climate of Earth and other planets, being the originator of the mathematical theory of the Earth's poles motion. The Observatory's direction was entrusted to the Observatory's Council, at the head of which was the director and Council's president M. Milankovic, with members Anton Bilimovic, V. Miskovic and Pavle Savic (Popovic 1951). Milankovic held this post till 26 June 1951.
During 1949 was completed the astro-geodetic pavilion, begun before the war. Mounted in it were the small transit instrument 10/100 cm., the zenith-telescope (11/110 cm., a small prism astrolabe and universal instrument (7/70 cm.). The pavilion housing up to then the small transit instrument was since named " Training Pavilion" as it was put at the disposal of students.
In 1951 P. Djurkovic organized the Double Star Service. Within this Service, subsequently named Group, were discovered over 200 new double and multiple stars, the bulk of the which is due to Georgije Popovic, working in this Group since 1960, being at its head since 1976. Acting in this Group have been also Lj. Dacic and Vera Erceg (since 1967). Engaged in the works on these problems were also Danilo Zulevic (since 1961), Dragomir Olevic (at the Observatory since 1964, first in Group for Minor Planets, Comets and Satellites, then for a while in the Double Star Group), Rade Pavlovic (since 1994) and Vesna Zivkov (since 1996).
In this same year the Variable Stars Service was organized by Vasilije Oskanjan. In this he was joined by Aleksandar Kubicela and Jelisaveta Arsenijevic (at the Obsevatory since 1956) whereby an impetuous development of the astrophysical researches took place later directed toward stellar and solar physics and astronomical spectroscopy. Initially it was the photometry of eruptive stars which was pursued. Since 1959, after Oskanjan's return from his specialization in the Soviet Union, it was the work in the field of polarimetry of eruptive stars that was taken up. Formally, the Astrophysical Group was founded in 1960. In 1969 and 1970 working in the Group was Trajce Angelov. In 1972 the Group was joined by Istvan Vince, in 1980 by Gojko Djurasevic, in 1983 by Slobodan Jankov, in 1984 by Milan Dimitrijevic, in 1985 - 1996 by Vladimir Krsljanin, in 1989-1996 by Olga Atanackovic-Vukmanovic (at the Observatory since 1982 first in the Absolute Declinations Group), in 1992 by Luka Popovic, in 1994 by Darko Jevremovic in 1995 by Silvana Nikolic while Sanja Erkapic entered on standing employment in 1996, having up to then been on postgraduate studies, occasionally working on a part-time basis. Worth mentioning is the Group's successful expedition to Hvar to observe the total solar eclipse on 15 Feb. 1961. The Group was left in 1966 by V. Oskanjan. In 1972-73 A. Kubicela, to whose inventiveness one is to thank for all the modern astrophysical measuring instuments the Observatory is in possession of, constucted a solar spectrograph using the "Small Refractor" ZEISS equatorial as supporting instrument wherewith he started the researches in the large scale photometric motions on the Sun, A. Kubicela, J. Arsenijevic and I. Vince organized in 1980 an expedition to India for monitoring the total solar eclipse whereby three research programmes have been carried out. J. Arsenijevic started in 1969 studying the radiation polarization in cool supergiants. In 1973 the researches in long period variations of polarizations in stars with emission lines (Be stars), aimed at studying the physical characteristics of atmospheres and envelopes of such objects. In 1984 the work on the astrophysical plasma spectroscopy was undertaken, with particular emphasis of the effect of the collision processes on the line shapes in the solar and stellar spectra. In 1987 the programme of tracking the sellected solar spectral lines during one solar cycle was taken up. In 1985 G. Djurasevic began the work on modelling of active tight double stars and S. Jankov on methods of reconstructing the surface brightness of stellar disks based on the spectroscopic and photometric observations.
From 26 June 1951 to March 1954 the Observatory's director is again V. Miskovic. After he went into retirement the Observatory was headed by M. Protic in the capacity of deputy director and from 21 Nov. 1956 to 21 Nov. 1960 as a director.
In 1953 the Time Service, heded by Zaharije Brkic, was included in the International Time Service. The scientific researches, started in this period, culminated in doctoral dissertations of Z. Brkic (26 Nov 1958) and Lj. Mitic (20 June 1959), these being the first post-war doctorates in astronomy. The Time Service collaborated since 1962 with the International Polar Motion Service and since 1971 with the Soviet Time Service. In 1963, in accordance with the agreement with the Military-Geographic Institute, the Observatory obtained a battery of quratz clocks with the accompanig equipment which made for the performance of the Time Service attaining a higher level, which resulted in the Observatory being ranked among the ten foremost in this domain in Europe. By virtue of agreement with the Federal Institute for Measures and Precious Metals from 1991, after preparatory construction works had been completed, cesium atomic and quartz clocks, belonging to the Institute were installed in an insulated compartment 10 m. below the ground, in the third cellar of the main Observatory's edifice, until 1997. Relying on them the Observatory maintained for a period the Yugoslav time standard.
In 1956 the Minor Planets Identification Service was organized by Ruzica Mitrinovic. In 1957-1959 the Observatory participated successfully in the activities involved by the International Geophysical Year, such as Sun observations and researches in the Earth's rotation and geographic coordinates variation.
In the period 1957-1959 pavilions were builit in which, after 34 years, were mounted three large fundamental instruments, whereby the Observatory become one of the best equiped for research in the field of fundamental astrometry. In addition, a number of auxilliary objects were constructed, a residential building and a road, all of which necessitated the Observatory's area to be enlarged to the present day 10 ha. The total investments involved by these works amount to a third of those 1929/30. This enabled three new scientific Groups to be established: Group for Relative Coordinates (Large Meridian Circle-headed by Lj. Dacic), Group for Absolute Right Ascensions (Large Transit Instrument - headed by Lj. Mitic) and the Group for Absolute Declinations (Large Vertical Circle - headed by Dj. Teleki). The scientific work in the field of astrometry, led by Lj. Mitic, Dj. Teleki, B. Sevarlic and S. Sadzakov, attained since the world standards. In the course of the last 30 years seven observational catalogues of star positions were produced with the Large Meridian Circle under guidance of Sofija Sadzakov, all of them as parts of the international observing programmes. For this achievment S. Sadzakov and M. Dacic were awarded Belgarde October Prize. S. Sadzakov, who joined the Observatory in 1962, is the head of the Group for Relative Coordinates since 1972. The Group was joined in 1962 by I. Pakvor, who subsequently was transferred to the Group for Absolute Right Ascensions. In 1970 came Miodrag Dacic and in 1984 Zorica Stancic, married Cvetkovic. In 1989, mannaged by S. Sadzakov and Astronomical Observatory, started coordinated multidisciplinary researches in the Belgarde mean coordinates variation. These researches are being pursed at the Observatory itself and at a number of institutes engaged in the field of geomagnetism and seismology.
The Group for Absolute Declinations was headed by Dj. Teleki since its foudation in 1960 until his death in 1987, save for 1984 when that post was held by S. Sadzakov. Collaborating in this Group have been also M. Mijatov, B. Kubicela. Djuro Bozickovic Vladeta Milovanovic, Veselka Trajkovska and Olga Atanackovic-Vukmanovic.
In 1970, according to a project conceived by Ljubisa A. Mitic, with I. Pakvor lending assistance in the execution, the Large Transit Instrument was provided with a system of vacuum meridian marks, unique in the world, enabling the accuracy of the measurements to reach their theoretical limit. With this instrument, the first catalogue at this Observatory of absolute right ascensions, was worked out, containing 308 stars. A catalogue of absolute declinations of these some 308 stars was elaborated at the Large Vertical Circle.
After M. Protic at the head of the Observatory was Vasilije Oskanjan, first as acting director since 1960, then in 1964-1965 as the director. Following him, from July 1965 to 1970, the director was Pero Djurkovic. After him in the period 1971-1975 at the head of Observatory is again M. Protic. Since 1975, first as acting director and from 13 July 1977 to Sept 1981 as the director was M. Mijatov (Belgarde 3 July 1933 - Belgarde 19 Nov 1996). The director's post from 1982 to 1989 was held by Miodrag Mitrovic, in 1990-1993 by Istvan Vince and from 21 Nov 1994 on by Milan Dimitrijevic.
In 1986, on the part of the Assembly of SR Serbia and REC, the project was adopted and funds allocated for the building of an astrophysical observing station at Rgaj mountain near Prokuplje. Due to the investments in the Republic having meanwhile been suspended, the project has not been realized yet.
In 1987, in the presence of a number of statesmen and eminent guests from the country and abroad, the centenary of the Observatory's founding was solemny celebrated in the hall of the Assembly of Serbia. On the occasion of this jubilee three international and one Yugoslav scientific conferences were held: IAU Colloquium 100 "Fundamental Astrometry" (8-11 Nov. - Chairman SOC H. Eichorn, Gainsville, USA), International Symposium on Astronomical Refraction in memory of Dj. Teleki, former President of IAU Working Group on Astronomical Refraction (3-4 Nov., Chairman SOC V. Milovanovic), Second International Symposium on Catastrophic Collisions of the Small Sollar System Bodies (8-11 Nov., Chariman SOC Zappala, Italy) and Second Workshop "Astrophysics in Yugoslavia" (8-10 Nov Chairman SOC M. Dimitrijevic). During these festivities a minor museum was opened in the old Observatory's building in Karadjordje Park, one of its rooms being dedicated to the development of the Astronomical Observatory.
In 1994 there took place a reorganization of the Observatory's inner structure, resulting in the establishment of : Department of Astrophysics, Department of Dynamical Astronomy and Department of Astrometry.
In 1995 the Observatory participated in the organization of the International Russian-Yugoslav Conference "Newcomb and Fundamental Astrometry" in St. Petersburg, of the First Hungarian-Yugoslav Conference in Baja and the First Romanian-Yugoslav Round Table on collaboration in astronomy in Temishoara; it organized the First Yugoslav Conference on Spectral Line Shapes in Krivaja.
In 1996 the Observatory organized the Second Yugoslav-Romanian Round Table on collaboration in astromony in Belgarde and the Astophysics Section at the 18th Summer School and International Symposium on the Physics and Ionized Gases in Kotor. The Observatory participated in the organization of the First Belaruss-Yugoslav Conference on Physics and Dynamics of Laboratory and Astrophysical Plasma in Minsk. The Observatory's fellows presented their results at 13 international and 6 national conferences. They published 129 bibliogarphic items of which 16 in the international leading journals. It published 4 volumes of Publ. Astron. Obs. Belgrade and 2 Nos. of its periodical Bull. Aston. Belgarde.
In 1997 the Observatory organized in the framework of celebration of of its 110th anniversary the scientific conference "Development of Astronomy among Serbs". It took part also in the organizaton of the Third Romanian-Yugoslav Round Table on Cooperation in Astronomy in Kluj-Napoca, as well as in the Second Yugoslav Conference on Spectrl Line Shapes in Bela Crkva. It fellows presented their results at 13 international and 4 national conferences. They published 152 bibliographic items, 11 of which in international journals of the highest standing. It issued four publications of the series Publ. Astron. Obs. Belgrade and two Nos. of its periodical Bull. Astron. Belgarde.
From 1997 on Bulletin Astronomique de Belgrade is available on www through the Astronomical Data System (ADS) thanks to courtesy of the System's holders. The www adress is: http://adswww.harvard.edu/BOBeo
Currently there are 41 employees at the Observatory 32 of them are astronomers.
In the course of its history the Belgrade Astronomical Observatory grew to an institution of great importance in the history of science and culture of the Serbian people, not only in the field of astronomy but also in meteorology, seismology and geomagnetics. Linked to this institution are the names of the famous personalities in the history of science who contributed to the Observatory, and the scientific achievmetns of Serbian astronomers in general, having earned esteem in the international scientific community as well as to the young having a good perspective, in our country too, in engaging in this beautiful and challenging science, in an ambience enabling them to achieve results of the highest value.
Sl. 3. Astrphysical laboratory - three mounted radio telescopes. Property of Faculty of Mathematics, Department for Astronomy, University of Belgrade.