DRAFT Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 26th June 2003.

Present: Professor Robert Weale (President) and 35 members, plus two visitors, including Julian Jacobs, Manager of the Regions and Branches of the BA.

1 Minutes of A.G.M 20th June 2002

These were signed by the President as a correct record. There were no matters arising.

2 President’s Remarks

Prof Weale remarked that the Society had passed a very good year, due to Jim Brightwell's programme arrangements. He thanked all those contributing to the Society, not just those on the Council. He thanked those Councillors standing down this year for their service.

Despite our planning there occur times when speakers cannot come on the night, and it had happened once this year. Although the situation was dealt with, he welcomed any suggestions for dealing with these emergencies in future. Martin Williams volunteered a speaker on Bluetooth, the wireless equipment connection system.

3 Secretary’s Report

The Secretary started by saying how sorry Council were to lose one of their members, Juliette Soester, at the beginning of the session.

She was pleased to report good attendances at most of our talks in the year, and thanked Jim Brightwell and the speakers. She remarked upon interesting facts from the year's lectures. Unfortunately we weren't able to Learn from Nature in December as Prof McGlade had been ill, but the President stepped in to tell us about recent approaches to ageing and life expectancy.

The Secretary reported that the lecture programme for next year was complete, and advertised first two talks. In March, we had again arranged a special programme for National Science Week this time at two schools, UCS as before, and South Hampstead High School: Martin Williams had showed film of the 'As If By Magic' talk before the AGM. Michael Wynne did most of the work, making contacts and arrangements, with other members helping during the week itself.

Generally the week went well, and audiences were appreciative. We were particularly pleased with the turnout for the evening talk on whether or not we should make conscious robots.

We were given a generous grant from the British Association to support advertising and expenses. Printing was cheaper than last year, and we managed on less, so have enough to try again next year. We also had support and good coverage from the Ham & High. We did have some outside interest, and raised our profile, but I don’t believe we gained new members.

Membership was reported to be over 100 this year. We had had some interest from our web site, but not many contributors to the Forum.

The Secretary noted that the Council had followed up the approach from the British Association last year, to be discussed further under a later agenda item.

Finally, she thanked those who had provided the food and wine preceding the AGM.

There were no questions. Angus McKenzie proposed the report be accepted, Peter Wallis seconded, and the report was accepted.

4 Treasurer’s Report

The Treasurer, Peter Wallis, gave his report.

There had been some increases in expenditure since the previous year. The cost of booking the Crypt Room remained the same but repayment of expenses incurred by lecturers has increased by £43. The cost of insuring against theft or damage to Astronomical and Meteorological equipment and for the Society’s Public Liability had risen by £52. During the year a telephone line was installed in the Observatory to permit remote access to the weather data and this had added £85; the Treasurer had recently changed the telephone regime from BT Standard to BT In Contact Plus, which will reduce the charge in the coming year to £36. Members might wonder why the Miscellaneous item was so high in the previous year but nil now: the main element had been a transfer to the Astronomy Section of the one-off £500 received from the Environment Agency as a compensation for telephone costs.

On the income side, he was glad to report an increase in membership from 98 to 105, raising subscription income by £112. Sales of our Centenary Book had inevitably fallen as has interest obtained on our capital. We were fortunate to be awarded a grant from the British Association of £500 towards the costs of running the National Science Week for youngsters. The accounts included a table showing what remained for future Science Weeks.

Overall we had achieved a surplus over expenditure of £838. However a substantial part of this was the residue of the BA grant and we should also take into account another £200 for loss in capital at the current rate of inflation, 3%. The Treasurer considered that there was no need to recommend an increase in subscriptions, which could well be counter-productive. Instead, he encouraged an increase in voluntary donations, particularly if affiliation to the BA lead to extra expenses or if charges for the room increased.

Elisabeth Fischer proposed accepting the report and accounts, with Doug Daniels seconding. The report and accounts were accepted.

6 Election of Council

The Secretary announced that Council had re-elected Robert Weale as President at the Council meeting on 9th April. 2003

As there were no further nominations, the following officers proposed by Council were declared as elected:
Julie Atkinson Hon. Secretary Peter Wallis Hon. Treasurer
Jim Brightwell Hon. Programme Secretary Elisabeth Fisher Hon. Membership Secretary

There were 8 vacancies for ordinary members of council. Martin Williams and David StGeorge had to stand down under the 5 year (next time to be 4 year) rule. Juliette Soester had sadly died in August last year. The following members were proposed for Council and as no further nominations were received, were declared as elected:
Eric Morgan Proposed by Council Betty Weale Proposed by Council
Brian Bond Proposed by Council Simon Lang Proposed by Council
Angus McKenzie Proposed by Council Michael Sabel Proposed by Council
John Oakes Proposed by Peter Wallis, seconded by Elisabeth Fischer

7 Election of Auditors

The President thanked Geoff Shelley and Martin Williams for their work on auditing the Accounts. Peter Wallis proposed them both to continue, Julie Atkinson seconded Geoff Shelley, and Doug Daniels seconded Martin Williams, and they were duly elected as auditors.

9 Astronomy Section Report

The Astronomical Section Secretary, Doug Daniels, presented his report.

Although the Observatory was closed to the public during the summer months, the work of the Astronomy Section still carried on. The Secretary and Simon Lang went to Paul Clements’ cottage in Herts. to observe the annual Perseid meteors. For once conditions were ideal with a fairly dark sky, a rare clear night and no moon. A fairly good display was seen and two meteors actually photographed.

Also in August on the 17th - 18th, the Section were alerted to an Earth grazing asteroid 2002 NY40, which was expected to be visible as a 9th mag. object. The asteroid approached the Earth at a distance of 530,000 kms, at a speed of 5 arc mins./min. The Section Secretary prepared to photograph it as it was due to pass south of alpha Vulpeculae. it but of course it was CLOUDY.

The session of open nights began on September 13th and Meteorology had been its main feature! From mid September until the New Year, there were a possible 48 nights when the Observatory could have been open. In the event 42 nights were totally clouded out. From October 18th to December 28th there was not a single Friday or Saturday evening or Sunday morning that was clear. From Jan. 3rd 2003 to closure at Easter, out of 46 possible open nights, 27 were clouded out. This was a great pity as both Jupiter and Saturn were well placed for observation and Saturn’s ring system was fully open.

Once again the Society participated in Science Week, which began on March 7th. The Section’s contribution to this event was to open the Observatory on every clear night during the week, which together with the two weekends gave a total of 10 possible openings. Once again the weather limited our activities to just 3 nights. This was however, an improvement on last years’ effort.

Despite the appalling weather, public attendance at the Observatory had been very good on the few nights that were clear and this was reflected in the fund box takings which were surprisingly good.

On May 7th Mercury transited the Sun. Simon Lang kindly volunteered to open the Observatory and several members took advantage of it. For once it was actually clear and Doug Daniels managed to secure some nice digital images. The early part of the transit was however, ruined by aircraft contrails, several of which criss crossed the Sun and persisted for a very long time.

The Observatory was once again opened for two nights on May 10th and 11th as part of the Hampstead and Highgate Festival. This event raises funds for the Observatory as the visitors actually pay for the privilege of attending and it raises the Society’s profile by introducing some science in to what is predominately an ‘artistic’ event. The Total Lunar eclipse of May 16th turned out to be a non-event. The sky was reasonably clear at midnight and we had had high hopes but it clouded up totally before the umbral stage began at 02.03 hrs. and it was raining before totality commenced at 03.14 hrs.

May 2003 had been a busy month and at sunrise on the 31st there was an annular eclipse of the Sun. From London only a partial eclipse was observable at sunrise. Simon Lang observed a thin crescent rising above the sea horizon from Flamborough Head and Martin Williams saw the partial eclipse from High Point in Highgate. This Society has always supported the efforts of the Campaign for Dark Skies. The Section Secretary was more than happy therefore, to be invited to submit evidence to be presented to a Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee inquiry into ‘Light pollution and Astronomy’, and to attend a meeting at which amateur and professional astronomers presented to members of the Committee. They put forward their views deploring the lack of legislation and control of street lighting, security lighting, sports floodlighting and advertising lighting, pointing out that the night sky was a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ (SSSI) which has as yet, no laws formulated to protect it.

As you can see from this report, despite bad weather the section has had a fairly busy year and this has, at times meant extra manning at the Observatory to cover the extra events. He thanked all demonstrators and assistants for taking part and for their continued enthusiastic support.

10 Meteorological Section Report

The Meteorological Section Secretary, Philip Eden, presented his report.

The automatic weather-recording station continues to function satisfactorily, and no calibration drift has been identified during the last 12 months. Regular manual readings (averaging once per week) were taken to confirm the readings from the AWS. There were no interruptions to the operation of the station at all during the year.

Towards the end of 2002 we installed a phone line and in December 2002 a modem was acquired to enable the remote interrogation of the system. The software now logs every five minutes instead of hourly. As a consequence, it is now possible to construct graphs of temperature, humidity, rainfall, barometric pressure and radiation which appear to show continuous monitoring of each element.

From April 2003 work has been proceeding to develop some web-pages with data from the last few months, and these pages should be linked from the HSS website in the near future. The long-term intention is to put summaries of Hampstead’s weather data all the way back to the beginning (i.e. 1909). The ambition is to try to do this by 2009 – to mark the weather station’s own centenary.

Now a quick look at the weather of the last twelve months:

SUMMER 2002 was rather warm, but also wet, and with a marked shortage of sunshine. A remarkable storm hit Hampstead on the early evening of 7th August, dropping 70mm in an hour.

AUTUMN 2002 was a season of contrasts. An exquisite September was followed by an execrable late-autumn; the rains finally set in on October 13. Rainfall was 291mm, 63 per cent above average, while the aggregate sunshine of 292 hours was just one per cent above average.

WINTER 2002-2003 began with a gloomy and often very wet December, but both January and February were sunny. A snowstorm on the afternoon of 30th January led to gridlock on roads throughout London and the Home Counties.

SPRING 2002 was exceptionally dry, sunny and warm. The temperature reached 25.1ºC on 16th April, the highest for that month since 1949. The rainfall of 88mm was 43 per cent below normal, and the sunshine total of 529 hours was 20 per cent above.

Angus McKenzie asked whether the enormous variations were due to global warming. Philip Eden thought not for individual weather events. The British weather always showed extremes over decades.

Martin Williams asked when the meteorological data would be available for the web. Philip Eden said it would be a couple of weeks yet.

Was this years snowfall the most disruptive ever? Philip Eden replied that snow had started to fall at 0.5? above freezing, while the dew point was at -2. As it fell, the air temperature dropped and the dewpoint rose, to -0.4. So, the snow started to fall wet, but as it got heavier, it had a lower water content. The water on the ground froze, so with snow on top it became a skating rink, resulting in the traffic gridlock reported in the news bulletins.

Answering a query, Philip Eden expected that at the Cricklewood Festival it would stay fine until lunch.

11 BA Affiliation

The President said that the BA had approached us some time ago, to become affiliated Society, and act as a Branch to their members in North London. He then introduced Julian Jacobs, Manager of the Regions and Branches of the BA, to explain why the BA came to the Hampstead Scientific Society.

Julian Jacobs congratulated the Society on its impressive year. He had found the Society through its web site, and had seen that we were offering a programme of events in line with their ideas for a branch.

The BA organises an Annual Festival, National Science Week, and award schemes for school science clubs. It is a national organisation with local branches, but branch cover is weak in the South East and it needs North and South London branches. It values collaboration and partnerships. Hence he suggested affiliation with us to provide a branch function. He had negotiated with the Society, and they had drawn up a draft contract. The intention was that the Society be a net beneficiary, through a development grant and discounts, and advertising through the BA.

The Secretary explained that the draft contract had been discussed in Council and copies were available in the room for perusal. In brief, it states that there is a mutuality of interests between the Society and the BA, that the Society would pay £90 per year to affiliate, but in the first year would receive £250 to provide branch functions for BA London members in an agreed catchment area, thus benefiting overall in the first year. The Society would retain its independence, but both sides would be able to review the agreement annually, and possibly terminate it.

Council were concerned by possible overcrowding in the Crypt Room, but Richmond, which has affiliated as a South London branch, has not had a large increase in numbers. The Society would benefit by contact with other BA branches, to learn from their experiences and hear of new speakers. There may be new blood coming in to the Society. Individual members would be eligible for a discount on BA membership. Council had decided to propose affiliation to the membership.

Michael Wynne asked whether, since the Society had received a grant for Science Week this year, they would be eligible next year too. Julian Jacobs replied that the pot was not usually oversubscribed, and there should be a good chance.

The motion was put to the members, and the vote was 29 to 0 in favour, so the motion was carried.

12 AOB.

Julie Atkinson said that many speakers these days asked if we had a powerpoint projector available. Martin Williams said that the one used to show the Science Week film was available to the Society.

Julia Daniels has been carefully copying the Society's early Year Books, and Martin Williams has arranged their scanning and intends to put them on the web at some point. He asked anyone who wishes to contribute to the web site, please email info@hampsteadscience.ac.uk

Michael Wynne said that the Society had at most one young person. We should be encouraging them. The current student membership fee of £5 had not attracted youngsters, nor the school membership fee of £25. He proposed that students be members for free. John Oakes said that membership that was free would not be valued. Elisabeth Fischer was concerned that meetings could be swamped by students coming for free, not letting our own members in. There are various reasons why school pupils would find attending our evening meetings difficult. Even during Science Week only 10 youngsters came to the evening lecture. The last Council meeting had considered a similar proposal to request reduced donations of £1 from visiting students. After discussion, the proposal was made that students of 18-21 should be offered free admission to meetings for a trial period of one year. The result of a vote on this was 22 to 3 in favour, so the proposal was carried.

There was unfortunately no time left for the Scientific Entertainment Martin Williams had prepared.

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 020 7328 0874

Home Page

Last updated   19-Jun-2004 contact