Northern Lights in London

Windows into History

Frederic Edwin Church's 1865 painting "Aurora Borealis" Frederic Edwin Church’s 1865 painting “Aurora Borealis”

Snippets 87. The Royal Society of London Journal is one of the greatest sources of historical information available. Established in 1665 as the first exclusively scientific journal in the world, it has been in continuous publication ever since. The remit of the journal has been very wide over the years, so there is plenty to interest an historian.

The following article was published in 1739 in the journal, and is an eye-witness account of northern lights seen in London, written by Cromwell Mortimer, secretary to the Royal Society. Mortimer was the second secretary, from 1730 until his death in 1752.

On Sunday evening, March 18. 1738-9. about half an hour past seven, the sky to the north was very clear, and the stars shone bright; to the south and south-east, as I was in the skirt of the town on the north-west…

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