Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 19th June 2008.

Present: Professor Robert Weale (President) and 31 members plus one guest.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 21st June 2007

These were signed by the President as a correct record.

2. President's Remarks

The President confessed that it was difficult to say anything original. Again, the Council were wonderful, the membership fantastic, and ever more helpful. Things seem to be going well, and there were no complaints, so he assumed the membership thought so too.

He was sad to report that the HSS was losing their Membership Secretary who had chosen to retire. The post had been in existence for 40 years, 30 of which were occupied by Elisabeth Fischer. In other words, she had been one of the longest postholders in the history of the Society. On his first trek to the HSS he walked to Burgh House through Flask Walk. Not far ahead of him there walked a person, fast in her step and firm of foot. He said to himself that such a determined woman must belong to the HSS. And when he caught up with her in Burgh House, she turned out to be firm and determined, in other words, Elisabeth. Keeping track of members is a minor part of being Membership Secretary. The major part is hauling in the lolly. Elisabeth is firm but tactful, flexible but determined, insistent but courteous. It is partly due to her that we have never been in the red. I am sure you will wish to join me in thanking her for the devoted way in which she discharged a sometimes difficult job, and to wish her the very best for the future, including a painless back.

At this point, Doug Daniels rose to present the Membership Secretary with boxes of chocolates on behalf of the Council and membership. Elisabeth Fischer thanked them both for their kind words. She had enjoyed her role of Membership Secretary, but felt that 30 years was long enough.

3. Secretary's Report

The Secretary felt that we had had another good year of talks, and gave a brief summary of the topics. The Programme Secretary had almost completed the lecture programme for next year. Several members had visited the Thames Barrier with Richmond Scientific Society.

We had intended to involve a state school in our National Science Week activities this year, but for various reasons we didn't manage to make contacts in time. However, we again arranged a special programme at UCS, and South Hampstead High School. Thanks to Michael Wynne, and Simon Lang, in particular, and to the others helping in the week itself. Topics included cooking, chemistry, fireworks, forensics, the brain and nuclear proliferation. It was well received by the schools and we again got good coverage from the Ham & High.

We had officially attended BA events, in particular the Branches Forum at the Science Festival in York, and another in Newcastle.

Membership is 108, a little down on last year.

The Astronomy Section launched a new revised section web site last summer, and immediately obtained a good response, even beyond the Society. Thanks to Martin Williams for continued sponsorship of the site.

The Secretary thanked Elisabeth Fischer, Julia Daniels and Peter Wallis for the food and wine provided. She also thanked Peter Wallis for producing the newsletter, and Nayna Kumari, Aileen Cook, Elizabeth Davies and Hugh Scaife for providing the coffee at meetings.

Peter Stern asked what had stopped the contacts with the state school for science week. The Secretary said it was a combination of work and study commitments and illness. He suggested that we make more efforts in future, and that he could help if needed. Martin Williams told how in an early attempt to contact a nearby state school, the teachers had felt unable to get involved because of lack of resources and time.

4. Treasurer's Report

The Treasurer, Peter Wallis, distributed copies of the accounts and gave his report.

On the expenditure side, the costs associated with the observatory (rent, insurance, electricity and telephone) have increased by 5%. Printing and postage have also increased, but this has been offset by the helpful donation from the British Association. There has been some increase in the cost of refreshments but this is still covered by the collection, shown under the "coffees" on the right.

On the income side, there has been a drop in subscription income, by some 7%, but interest on our capital has increased to offset this. The major improvement has come from an anonymous donation, for which the Treasurer thanked the donor on the Society's behalf. We still had money left for Science Week from the original BA grant.

Overall our income exceeds our expenses by about £1,000. We shall be able to afford extra expenses on lecturers in the coming year.

There were no questions. Elisabeth Fischer proposed acceptance of the accounts. Betty Weale seconded, and the proposal was carried.

5. Election of Council

The Secretary announced that since Prof. Weale had declared that he would retire as President at the end of the session, Council had elected Doug Daniels as President at the Council meeting on 10th April 2008.

She then handed over to Doug Daniels to give a tribute to his predecessor.

Robert Weale was the 11th President since the Society's foundation in 1899. He had served for 20 years, the second longest Presidency, only exceeded by Sir Flinders Petrie 1910-1933 = 23 years. Over the course of the 20 years he had presided over approximately 200 lecture meetings and over 80 Council meetings. The Society expressed its thanks for his long and loyal service, and presented him with a copy of 'Your Inner Fish' and an album of Society memorabilia.

And behind every great man is a good woman. The Society was also indebted to Betty Weale for her many years of providing the teas and coffee at meeting, missing the questions at every lecture. To say thank you on behalf of the Society, he presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

The Secretary expressed her thanks to the outgoing Membership Secretary, Elisabeth Fischer. Since Membership Secretary and Treasurer need to liaise closely in their duties, and in order to pass on experience as Treasurer, Council had proposed that John Tennant and Peter Wallis between share both roles. The sitting officers were proposed for the other offices.

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

There are no retirements from Council under the four year rule. However, Aileen Cook has resigned due to other commitments, and John Tennant has now become an officer. Thanks were given to Aileen and John for the work they had done on Council over the last couple of years.

As there were no further nominations, the following members proposed by Council were declared as elected to Council:
Leo McLaughlin Hemant Desai Nayna Kumari Elizabeth Davies

This left one vacancy on Council. The Secretary noted that the Council has the option to co-opt members.

6. Election of Auditors

This year, Martin Williams had decided not to stand again as auditor. The constitution requires two auditors. Julie Atkinson proposed Graham Wallis and Julia Daniels proposed Leo McLaughlin as auditors and Elisabeth Fischer seconded. Both were willing to act. The meeting elected them both.

7. Astronomy Section Report

The Joint Astronomical Section Secretary, Doug Daniels, presented his report, summarised below. (An expanded account is on the web site.)

During the early part of the 2007 session, Saturn was still reasonably placed for observations, but its altitude is declining and like Jupiter it will soon be absent from the winter skies and only available towards the end of the session. The ring system is now beginning to close and the planet's prominent south equatorial belt had a distinct reddish tint.

After a gestation period lasting a full year, the section's new web pages were finally connected to the Society's web-site in late July. Our thanks to Dan Pooley for the enormous amount of work that he has put into this project which proved to be an instant success. We must not forget the contributions made by Martin Williams, for financing the site and providing unlimited space, and all the work put in to it over the years by Julie Atkinson to keep it up to date. The web-site has become an increasingly important for the Society.

Despite the fact that the 2007 Perseid meteor shower took place under favourable conditions, with no moon and largely clear skies, we decided not to open the Observatory. Simon Lang sought out a dark location in Sussex and was rewarded with fine views of the shower. He even managed to capture two Perseids on the same frame of a short exposure guided photograph.

The observatory working party took place in September. The volunteers consisted of the Astro Sec., the Assistant Astro. Sec., Nayna Kumari and John Tennant. The path and steps were cleared of weeds, the telescope was cleaned, the observatory and annexe, cleaned and tidied up. Simon fitted the refurbished illuminated 'Open' sign and replaced the step lights with low energy consumption bulbs.

During the last week in September, we received the sad news of the death of David St.George at the age of 87. David was a long-standing member of the Society, having joined in 1959. He served on the Society's Council and was an assistant demonstrator at the Observatory for many years where his technical expertise with electronics was put to good use maintaining the Observatory electrical installation.

The winter session of public open nights resumed on Friday October 12th, predictably a cloudy night. The weather improved slightly on the 13th but thin hazy cloud and high light pollution levels resulted in a limiting magnitude of +3. With no bright planets or moon on view, the 25 visitors who turned up had to be content observing a few double stars.

During early October, we were alerted to the discovery of Comet 2007 F1 (LONEOS), predicted to attain a magnitude of 6.3. Neither Terry Pearce nor the Astronomy Secretary could detect it in the twilight sky.

During October we received news that Comet Holmes had suffered a sudden outburst. Between 23-24th of October, it was reported to have increased in magnitude from 17th to approximately +2 rendering it visible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, cloud cover was total on the 25th and 26th. The sky finally cleared late on Sunday 28th. Comet Holmes was an obvious naked eye object not far from alpha Persei despite the presence of a moon two days after full and close by.

During November and December, Comet Tuttle was slowly moving south through Cepheus, Cassiopeia and Andromeda, passing Earth at .25 AU and reaching perihelion in Jan. 2008. It was only visible in binoculars with great difficulty.

Throughout November and December, Mars was steadily climbing away from the eastern horizon, coming to opposition on Christmas Eve when it presented a disk diameter of just 16 arc/minutes but well situated on the Gemini-Taurus borders.

Mercury's greatest eastern elongation occurred on 22 January when it was some 19° from the Sun. A bright, clear sunset on Jan. 21st allowed the Astronomy Secretary to find it with binoculars.

There was a total lunar eclipse in the early hours of February 21st, but in the event the weather prevented any observations.

During the early part of the session, the Sun was observed on several occasions and it continued to present a totally blank disk. However, towards the end of the session one or two small sunspots were seen perhaps heralding the start of the new solar cycle.

The session ended on April 27th, a wet Sunday morning, continuing the record of poor weather conditions that have been a feature of this session. Despite this, the public open nights that were clear attracted a total of around 500 visitors during the session, indicating that the Observatory continues to provide a valuable interface between the Society and the general public.

As usual, the Society participated in the annual Hampstead & Highgate Festival with three sessions at the Observatory all fully booked but unfortunately only one was partially clear. However, all those who attended seemed to enjoy the experience.

The Astronomy Secretary thanked the Assistant Secretary, Simon, for organizing the roster, the section Treasurer, Julia, for keeping them solvent, Dan Pooley, for the huge task designing the section web-site, and to all Demonstrators and Assistants for their continued support providing what may still be regarded as a unique service to the public.

Following his report the Astronomy Secretary was asked the web address. It was www.hampsteadscience.ac.uk, or google the Hampstead Scientific Society.

There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

Julia Daniels then presented the Astronomy Section accounts.

She noted that not much had been spent this year. There was the usual income - the observatory fund was a bit down, but interest was up to offset it. The chief difference was due to a one off donation last year. Little had been spent, as existing materials had been used for maintenance. However, the Section expects to have a big expenditure on the observatory dome at some point, and so is storing up funds in anticipation.

Peter Wallis pointed out that the main accounts rather than the astronomy accounts include the observatory site rental, as the site is used by the meteorological section too.

Martin Williams asked if the Section had any idea of the costs and materials for replacing the dome. Doug Daniels said that they would need to remove the roofing felt and may use sheet aluminium to replace it. This would reduce the weight on the supports and reduce the fire risk. Simon Lang added that the dome rails were getting looser. There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

8. Meteorological Section Report

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

Data from the Society's automatic weather station had been logged every five minutes without any break during the previous twelve months, and summaries had been sent on-line to the Meteorological Office each month. The manual rain-gauge was beginning to deteriorate, and a new one would be sought from the Met. Office during the coming year.

Monthly reviews of Hampstead's weather had been posted on the Section website, and linked to from the Society's website, by the 4th of the following month, but the Meteorology Secretary hadn't had the opportunity to extend the on-line availability back beyond the mid-1950s (where it was last year).

The Society has assisted Haycock Associates establish a web-based system for collecting and displaying environmental data in respect of the Hampstead ponds for the City of London corporation. In return for an on-going supply of weather data from our site, the City of London will be paying for the annual service of our automatic weather station.

The Meteorological Section Secretary summarised the weather during the last year.

SUMMER 2007 will be remembered nationally for the widespread and repeated flooding episodes. The only serious flooding in London occurred on July 19 and 20, but this was largely the result of surface flooding following a heavy downpour which lasted no more than four hours - the lack of maintenance of drainage channels, together with the conversion of front-gardens into hardstanding, is as important a contribution as the actual rainfall to this type of flooding. At Hampstead, June was the wettest only since 1999 and July only since 1988, while August was actually the driest for four years. Taking the season as a whole, it was the wettest summer since 1997, the coolest since 1993, and the least sunny since 1998.

AUTUMN 2007 was a very dry season, though it was neither particularly warm nor particularly sunny. Overall, it was the coolest autumn since 1998 and the driest since 1997. The sequence of dry months actually began in August and ended in December, and in fact that 5-month period, August to December, was the driest such since 1947.

WINTER 2007-08 brought alternating periods of mild rainy weather, and sunny frosty weather, but warmer periods were much warmer than the colder periods were cold. Overall, it was not quite as warm as winter 2006-07 but it did rank second-warmest in the last 10 years. The aggregate number of sunshine hours of almost 250 contrasts with the long-term average of 170, so almost 50% above normal, and it was the sunniest winter on our 98 years of records.

SPRING 2008 was often rather cold until the beginning of May, and there were some notable snowfalls over the Easter Weekend, and again during the first week of April, but May itself was the warmest since 1992. In fact, May was the first month warmer than its namesake the previous year for a whole year.

Following the report Leo McLaughlin remarked that last year seemed very wet, but Philip Eden replied not in London. The only publicised statistics are national, but not all of the country deviates from the national average in the same direction.

Peter Stern asked if we were likely to have a hose pipe ban this year? The Meteorological Secretary replied that he did not trust the water companies - the drought a couple of years ago was 'spun'. His new book has a picture of two reservoirs from that period - one with dry cracked mud and another at a normal level. Jim Brightwell remarked that Britain didn't have climate, but weather. Philip Eden said we had both, and our climate was variable.

There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

9. AOB

Martin Williams noted that the observatory dome was our greatest asset. What were the likely needs to repair it and what about professional advice? Doug Daniels felt that the more the Section could do by itself the better, as professional opinions were expensive and not always necessary. The structure was sound. The shutter had been rebuilt recently and then we had experimented with aluminium sheeting, and found it very good. When asked about relative expansion, he said that the framework was wood, and also he had used aluminium on his dome at home and not found it a problem.

The President announced the conclusion of the AGM. There followed a Scientific Entertainment, which consisted of a Brains' Trust.

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 020 7328 0874

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