Alfred B Biggs Observatory memorial

Alfred Biggs Observatory memorial, public art, Launceston, Royal Park

Public Art : Alfred B Biggs Observatory memorial (also known as the Observatory memorial or the A. B. Biggs Memorial)

Sculptor : Not applicable

Description: A bronze plaque on a granite plinth in honor of astronomer, teacher and inventor Alfred Barrett Biggs (10th April, 1825- 19th December,1900)

Date Unveiled: 18th of September, 1935.

Location: The memorial is located at Royal Park on the site of the old observatory, Launceston, Tasmania.


Lat.41 26' 1' S.
Long. 147 7' 49.5' E.
Site of the Observatory of
A.B.Biggs, ESQ.

Erected by the
Royal Society of Tasmania

18th Sept, 1935

Background of Alfred Barrett Biggs: Alfred Barrett Biggs was born in London but at the age of 8 moved with his family to Van Diemen's Land. He started his career working in the Commercial Bank of Tasmania before traveling to Melbourne to become a teacher. He later returned to Tasmania in 1864 to teach in Bothwell and then in Campbell Town. During this time he formed a friendship with Dr William Valentine, who also shared the love of science and astronomy. In 1874, Valentine invited a group of leading US astronomers to view the rare transit of Venus from his home in Campbell Town on the 9th of December. As a thank you to Biggs for assisting them, the astronomers gave him the building they had used in making their observations. Inspired, Biggs later built two observatories in Launceston, one in the back of his brother-in laws house in Park Lane (near the foreshore of the Esk River) and the other on the Depot Ground, now known as Royal Park. The observatory at Royal park had a revolving roof. Biggs made an observatory clock which was driven by a float.  


Biggs is believed to have set up and made the first telephone call in Australia around 1876,after reading about the invention of the telephone in the science magazine "The English Mechanic". He constructed two telephones from a diagram and description in the mag. He then connected the leads from one of the phones to the terminals of the Morse telegraph station in Campbell Town and the other to the station in Launceston. Once connected he rubbed a pencil over the Campbell Town speakers microphone and viola, the sound could be heard through the phone in Launceston.

During his lifetime Biggs created; lenses for telescopes, a 6ft water driven observatory clock , micrometers to measure angular separation,  a coin tester (to detect counterfeit coins), a high powered microscope, a seismometer. Biggs' grandson claims Biggs also invented the term "earth tremors" during his study of earthquakes.


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