In 1896 Charles Rooking Carter bequeathed to the Royal Society of New Zealand (then the New Zealand Institute) the residue of his estate amounting to approximately £2240, to form “the nucleus of a fund for the erection in or near Wellington of an astronomical observatory fitted with telescope and other instruments and the endowment of a professor and staff.”
This fund was invested by the Society to the best advantage and allowed to accumulate, and although many attempts were made in astronomical circles to have it utilised, the Society did not deviate from its policy of allowing it to grow until it was large enough to enable the testator's expressed wishes to be carried out.
In March, 1937, the Bequest had reached a sum of £12,402 and representations were again made by interested bodies, this time to the Government, that the Bequest should be utilised. Several conferences were held between the Society, the Government, and the City Council, and a Carter Bequest Committee was set up. It was agreed that a scheme be drawn up whereby an observatory should be built in Wellington out of the Carter Bequest, and that its maintenance should be the responsibility of the Government and the City Council. The latter agreed to give the land on which the Observatory should be built.
The Carter Bequest Committee set up a technical sub-committee to report on a suitable scheme for building and equipping the observatory and its cost. This committee consulted with overseas astronomical authorities and submitted a report which provided for an expenditure of £6250 on the building and equipment.
The recommendations of the Carter Bequest Committee, together with the report of the above sub-committee, were fully considered at the annual meeting
of the Council of the Royal Society held on the 27th May, 1937, and finally the following resolution was carried:—
That the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand approves of the suggestions made by the Committee set up to consider the utilisation of the Carter Bequest as set forth in the letter dated May 3, 1937, from the Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs and, subject to the necessary legislative authority being received, instructs the Standing Committee to transfer the accumulated funds belonging to the Carter Bequest to the proposed Statutory Board of Trustees as soon as it is satisfied that the sum necessary for service and upkeep of the proposed Carter Observatory, viz., £1000 per annum, is definitely assured.
The Council of the Royal Society, however, is of opinion that the sum to be contributed annually by the Wellington City Council, viz., £250, ought not to be subject to an annual vote, but should be made obligatory by the Empowering Act.
The Carter Observatory Act, embodying proposals approved by the Council, was passed on the 14th September, 1938. It provided for a Carter Observatory Board, comprising two representatives of the Royal Society, two representatives of the City Council, and five appointed by the Government. On the 29th October, Dr E. Kidson and Mr C. G. G. Berry were appointed to represent the Royal Society, and on the death of Dr. Kidson in June, 1939, Dr. M. A. F. Barnett was appointed to succeed him on the Board.
As reported in the annual report to the Council of the Society's representatives printed above, the Observatory was completed and opened by the Right Honourable the Prime Minister, Mr Peter Fraser, P.C., on 20th December, 1941.
Research Grants: The reports of research grantees were adopted.