where Time begins
Architect: Christopher Wren. Through its campus runs the Greenwich Meridian, Zero Degrees Longitude.
A laser blares the line into the night skies over the Thames Valley, and in the sidewalk there's an imbedded illuminated line, so schoolkids (and Bob) can skip and dance back and forth between the Western and Eastern Hemispheres.
The Observatory's Motto: Where Time Begins.
The red thing on the left tower is The Time Ball. Each day precisely at noon it's dropped, so ships in the Thames could look up and set their clocks by it, a necessary first step for determining Longitude during their voyages around the world.
The first clocks precise enough to compute Longitude were invented in the 18th century by a self-taught clockmaker, John Harrison, whose originals have been restored and tick merrily away at the Observatory. Though magnificent machines of brass and steel, the hearts of the Harrison Chronometers are actually made of Lignum Vitae wood, and lubricate themselves.
The second Astronomer Royal Edmond Halley (famed for predicting the return of his Comet) got drunk one night with Tsar Peter the Great, and they rolled each other around the Observatory grounds in a wheelbarrow. The first Astronomer Royal, Flamsteed, was a real jerk and a liar and a crook.
The standard history of all this is in Dava Sobel's wonderful book "Longitude." The cable channel A&E (Arts & Entertainment) made a movie of it, featuring a scene of attractive young topless women playing strip whist with rich aristrocrats. But Jeremy Irons wonderfully plays the ex-Naval officer Gould, who found the Harrison Chronometers in a heap of junk in the basement, and spent years between the World Wars restoring them to original specifications, working order, Bristol fashion.