The precursor of the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory was a small private observatory that was founded at the beginning of the 20th century by the rich amateur N. Mal'tsov on mount Koshka (the Cat) near the little town of Simeiz. On 1912 N. Mal'tsov presented his own observatory with its equipment to the Main Astronomical Observatory at Pulkovo and it was immediately agreed that this observatory should function as an outstation of Pulkovo Observatory. The equipment of Simeiz Observatory was a Zeiss double astrograph with 120mm objective, and the heliograph. Scientific work concentrated on stellar photometry (S.V.Belyavsky) and observations of minor planets (G.N.Neujmin). In 1912 a 1-m telescope was ordered for the new station from the Grubb Company in England but the new instrument was installed only in 1925, after the first World War and Russian revolution, and the first photograph was taken on 28 May 1926. At that time this instrument was the largest one in Europe.
G.A.Shajn and V.A.Albitsky had started spectral observations of radial velocities of the stars, that study allowed to the Observatory to be famous all over the world.
The World War II and the temporary occupation of the Crimea interrupted the work of the Simeiz Observatory. After the liberation of the Crimea the Observatory at Simeiz was found to be completely destroyed.
The Soviet Government decided to restore the Observatory at Simeiz and to build a new modern observatory simultaneously on the northern slopes of the Crimean mountains, where the astronomical climate is more favourable than at Simeiz. (Now the main part of the Observatory is located here, in the settlement Nauchny.)
At the same time (June 30, 1945) it was decided to reorganize the Simeiz Department of the Pulkovo Observatory into the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR - CrAO. Academician G.A.Shajn was appointed to be the first Director of the reorganized Observatory.
The 40-cm double astrograph and 122-cm reflector as well as Lyot-coronagraph were received for the new Observatory from Germany as reparations. Some years later many new telescopes started to operate at CrAO: a 1-m Tower Solar Telescope (scientific supervisor A.B.Severny); 0.5-m Coude reflector (scientific supervisor V.B.Nikonov); 2.6-m reflector (G.A.Shajn, idea; B.K.Ionisiani, construction; V.B.Nikonov, scientific supervision). The 2.6-m reflector (put into operation in 1961) was the largest telescope in Europe at that time. In 1966 a 22-m radio telescope for mm wavelengths started to work. Observations with the 125-cm reflector, created under the supervision of V.B.Nikonov, have been performed since 1981. A unique gamma-ray telescope consisting of 48 mirrors with a total area of 54 m2 (scientific supervisor - A.A.Stepanian) was mounted in 1989.
CrAO designs and constructs astrophysical instruments for both ground-based and space observations. Starting from 1959, CrAO produced more than 10 instruments which were used in space observations of the Sun and of sky background in ultraviolet. In 1975 The Orbital Solar Telescope (OST - 1) was mounted on board the space station "Salut--4". New characteristics of fine structure of solar flares and plages were obtained by "OST-1". The 0.8-m automatic telescope destined for the space station ASTRON was constructed by CrAO in collaboration with Lavochkin Association. Uniquive observations of stars, galaxies, Halley comet, supernova 1987A and other objects have been performed with ASTRON. Experience accumulated during design, manufacturing and usage of the ASTRON mission is now actively used in preparing the international (Russian - Ukrainian - Germanian - Italian) SPECTRUM-UV project that will include the 1.7m UV telescope with an image camera and a set of spectrometers of different resolutions to study bright and faint, point-like and extended space sources.
The beauty of the observatory site, the telescopes and the instruments together with a rich history and the current high scientific activity of the astronomers staff make the Observatory as a quite attractive place. During many years it was a unique site in combining active scientific research with teaching for students and postgraduates in astrophysicists. Many astrophysicists of FSU have been trained at the Crimean Observatory. During the period 1945 - 1960 a great number well known at that time astrophysicists had been working in Observatory: G.A.Shajn I.S.Shklovsky, A.B.Severniy, V.F.Gase , S.B.Pikel'ner, N.A.Kozyrev, V.E.Stepanov, V.A.Albitzky, V.B.Nikonov, E.R.Mustel, V.K.Prokof'ev, and widely known today astrophysicists: A.A.Boyarchuk, I.M.Kopilov, E.E.Dubov, V.L.Khokhlova, N.A.Savich, G.S.Ivanov - Kholodniy, R.N.Ikhsanov, P.F.Chugainov, R.E.Gershberg, I.I.Pronik, V.I.Pronik, K.K.Chuvaev, A.A.Stepanian, N.N.Stepanian, S.I.Gopasyuk, T.T.Tsap, A.V.Bruns, N.V.Steshenko, D.N.Rachkovskiy, N.M.Shakhovskoy, V.V.Prokof'eva et al. began their scientific activity then.
Due to health problem Academician G.A. Shajn passed his director position to A.B. Severny in 1952. Academician A.B. Severny contributed a lot to the study of solar flares, solar and stellar magnetic fields and became later one of the first investigator of helioseismology. A new observatory in Nauchny has been built under his management. Acad. A.B. Severny died in 1987 as the director of the CrAO.
After 1991 CrAO has controlled by the Ministry of the Science and Technology of Ukraine, but the structure observatory and all programs of scientific investigations have been remained invariable. The CrAO's activity is rather high in both ground-based and space astrophysics.