In the historical evolution of magnetic measurements, Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss with Wilhelm Weber has left a key place in establishing network of magnetic observatories, in the development of instrumentation for measurements in absolute units and in the theory of geomagnetism. Humboldt was in the pioneering era of setting up magnetic observatories. The German mathematician, Gauss in 1830s devised the method of Spherical harmonic analysis to model the geomagnetic field and postulated that the major part of the field originated within the earth. The improvement in the measurements of the magnetic field in Absolute units by Gauss made it possible to conduct magnetic measurements around the globe for long duration.
India’s participation in pursuing the study of the science of geomagnetism through observations at magnetic observatories initiated in 1836, when the country became a member of the Göttingen Magnetic Union, which was formed in 1836 by Gauss and colleagues. The establishment of the magnetic observatory at Colaba (Bombay) took place in 1841, however, regular observations commenced in 1846. The continuity of the magnetic observations at Colaba is maintained, even after the location was effected by the modernization. This could be achieved by establishing the Alibag observatory, which has its proximity to Colaba. Since its inception, till date contribution of accurate and prompt geomagnetic data from Alibag observatory to the International field of geomagnetic studies is kept up.
Establishment of the equatorial and low latitude observatories in India began with the active participation of the Institute in various international collaborative projects.