AA Chart Database History
The Astrological Association’s Chart Database
History of Chart Data
From the earliest times, astrologers have been keen to collect and record birth and event data. This quest intensified with the revival of astrology in the twentieth century, and this history mentions just a few from the English-speaking world.
Take your mind back to the 1970s; charts were manually calculated, and it was easier to convert all times to GMT for ease of calculation when using a printed ephemeris and tables of houses. Information about time zone changes was scattered. Ways of setting out birth data and assessing its reliability were diverse and incomplete.
Spurred on by the development of personal computers in the mid-1970s, the need to standardise the collection and calculation of chart data became important. In the US, Doris Chase Doane published three books of time zone changes. Neil Michelson, having published his first American Ephemeris of planetary positions in 1976, published his first ACS Atlas two years later. Realising all this would be of limited value without clean, reliable birth data, Lois Rodden collected a vast amount of accurate birth data, and created a data rating system – the Rodden rating – that has become the established benchmark for astrological data, as shown in the diagram below.
In those days, reliable data was so precious that Lois charged $5 for an item over the phone. Later on, Lois would make her data available as a database for home computers, called Astrodatabank. Her dedication to accurate data – an absolute essential in astrology – is apparent in this wonderful article she wrote in 1999.
Alongside and building on from this in the UK, David Fisher pioneered the establishment of the Astrological Association’s Chart Database. This was a meticulously kept manual index card system – a photograph of two of these are shown above. This was intended for astrologers, who were creating charts manually. They would send David a stamped self-addressed envelope and a further 50p per item.
The discipline and conventions of entry in those early days of the AA chart collection were different to today’s computer generated procedures. Since ephemerides and tables of houses were based on calculations for GMT, the first step in manually calculating a chart was to convert the local time in the place of birth to GMT. The task of typing the data into a computer database and the complexities of conversion between rapidly changing data-systems in the 1990s had led to some of the Association’s data being unreliable.
Lois Rodden died in 2003, and her Astrodatabank database is now curated by a dedicated team, and available for anyone to access free of charge. Data is kept up to date as new information comes to light. In view of this, the Association considered carefully whether to continue to make its database available. Firstly, we compared the entries on our database to those in Astrodatabank, and identified about 800 items that were not on Astrodatabank. We will also continue to collect data from important news items for both events and people, and add charts that appear in the Astrological Journal. We have forged a relationship with Astrodatabank, which means that we will be sharing our data with them, and updates to data that they identify will be reflected on our database too.
If you are looking for accurate chart data, we would recommend looking at Astrodatabank initially – that database has over 60,000 entries, and is the gold standard for astrological data. If you cannot find the data there, then you may find it on our database, which focuses more heavily on mundane events, and individuals that are mentioned in articles in AA publications.
The AA is to continue its tradition and to play its part in the collection of clean reliable data for individuals and especially mundane events, while helping astrologers find the most accurate information. We encourage you to join us in this mission.