BRIEF HISTORYOn 1 April 1990, the most important centers of astronomical research (the Observatories of Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara) joined in one institute - the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy, starting a new stage in the development of Romanian astronomy.
What is it known today about the beginnings of astronomy in this geographic area? Very little, unfortunately. Anyway, there is an important evidence of the beginnings, namely the Dacian sanctuary from Sarmizegetusa, one of the most ancient vestiges of this kind in the world.
Another evidence goes as far back as AD 528, when the notion of Christian era appeared for the first time in the book Liber de Paschal by Dionysius Exiguus (born at Tomis, in Dobrogea). Although astronomy is perhaps the earliest science, it got its scientific foundation only in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The political and geographical conditions in this area had hindered its progress as a science and the practical astronomical needs used to be met with the assistance of foreign specialists. However, in Transylvania, whose favorable geographical position (surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains) protected it from the political struggles of this region of Europe, Bishop Ioan Vitez (1408-1462) initiated at Oradea the first astronomical observation activities in the Eastern Europe. Thus, the earliest astronomical observatory on our territory (1445-1465) was erected before that one set up by Tycho Brahe in Denmark.
Later there were other scholars, as Johannes Grass (Honterus), Conrad Haas, Hrisant Notara etc., who collaborated with famous specialists, like Luigi Fernando di Marsigli, Giuseppe Boscowich and V. Oppolzer. The first theoretical studies in astronomy were reported at the end of the 19th century.
Spiru Haret devoted his doctoral thesis (1878) to the study of the invariability of the major axes of the planetary orbits. Félix Tisserand recommended that young Haret's method should be extended to other astronomic calculations. At the same time, Henri Poincaré appreciated Haret's doctoral work as a "great surprise". Therefore, Spiru Haret could be considered Romania's first theorist astronomer of the 19th century. His name was assigned to a crater on the invisible face of the Moon. Haret was followed by other astronomers, e.g. Constantin Gogu (1854-1897), a famous European specialist in the field of celestial mechanics and particularly in the Moon's motion.
One of the last scientists of the 19th century could be considered Nicolae Coculescu, the first director of the Astronomical Observatory of Bucharest. The set up of this observatory was followed by the building of others, e.g. a private one, owned by Nicolae Donici, at Dubosarii Vechi in Basarabia (1908), the Jassy Observatory (1913), whose first director was Constantin Popovici and the Observatory in Cluj (1920), first director Gheorghe Bratu; much later a new astronomical observatory was built also in Timisoara.
Romania participated in the first congress of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1918, and was admitted as a permanent member in 1928. Two years later the Romanian National Astronomical Committee (RNAC) was set up; the first RNAC Executive Committee included the most important Romanian scientists, such as Nicolae Coculescu, Constantin Popovici, Ioan Armeanca, Gheorghe Bratu, Gheorghe Demetrescu, Nicolae Donici, Constantin Pârvulescu.
After the Second World War, the Romanian astronomy renewed. Most of the Observatories were managed by the Universities. The Bucharest Observatory was taken over by the Academy between 1951 and 1975, being directed during that period by Gheorghe Demetrescu, then by Constantin Drâmba. All along this epoch it faced great difficulties. In spite of these, the astronomical research continued to progress in two main directions: astrophysics and fundamental astronomy. On the 1st of April 1990 it has been taken again by the Academy. Great efforts were made since then to reintegrate the Romanian astronomy in the worldwide scientific community.