History of the Institute

The Astronomical Institute of The Czech Academy of Sciences is one of the oldest scientific institutions in the country. It is the direct successor of the Observatory of the Jesuit College which was built in 1722 in the tower of the Clementinum in Prague. Later on, the institution of the “Mathematical Tower”, which was in fact the observatory, was established in 1752. At that time meteorological observations began.

Since then the Observatory has undergone a number of changes, many of which have reflected professional, political and even societal reorganization. After Czechoslovakia gained its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the institute was renamed the ‘State Astronomical Observatory’. In 1940, it was moved as such to an undistinguished apartment building in Vinohrady (Budečská Street) in Prague.

Long before that, in 1898, a private observatory owned by J.J. Frič was built in a small village Ondřejov, located 35 km south-east of Prague.This small observatory was donated to the state of Czechoslovakia, more specifically to Charles University in Prague, in 1928.

The site of the Ondřejov Observatory, at an elevation of 500 m in the relatively unpolluted environs of Prague, proved to be well chosen. After the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences was established in 1953, it was merged with the State Astronomical Observatory to create the Astronomical Institute, now belonging to The Czech Academy of Sciences. In 1967 the largest Czech optical telescope with the diameter of two metres was inaugurated in Ondřejov.

At the time of the division of the Federal Czechoslovak Republic into the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic in 1993, the Prague part of the Institute was moved to new premises in Prague-Spořilov. Currently, the Institute participates in ESO and ESA projects, as the Czech Republic became a member state of these organisations in 2007 and 2008, respectively.