Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/91

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81
ASTRONOMY IN AMERICA.

Before passing to the brief consideration of the work accomplished in some of the other American observatories, we must fully admit the justice of the remarks made by Prof. Nourse in closing his memoir relating to it. "The position now accorded to it," he says, "by the free tributes of scientific men in the Old World as well as at home, is not without honor to our country; and this notwithstanding the comparatively recent founding of the institution, and the as yet limited appropriations sustaining it. It may, therefore, justly claim a yet more generous support; and the pledge may be safely made that, if thus supported and efficiently directed, it will make returns yet more gratifying to national pride, and (which is a matter infinitely more important) advancing the highest aims of scientific research. What shall be its future records of success must remain with the support extended by the government and the fidelity of those who are intrusted with its administration."

The actual commencement of astronomical observation in America belongs to a much earlier period than that at which the Washington Observatory was erected. The first telescope used for astronomical purposes in America was set up at Tale College forty-six years ago. The first observatory, however, properly so called, was erected at Williams College, Massachusetts, in 1836. The next was the Hudson Observatory, established in connection with the Western Reserve College, Ohio, under the charge of Prof. Loomis (now of Yale), whose works on astronomy are deservedly held in high esteem in this country as well as in America. The next in order of time came the Observatory of the High School at Philadelphia, which achieved distinction under the able management of Messrs. Walker and Kendall. The West Point Observatory was next established, and placed under the care of Prof. Bartlett. All these preceded the Washington Observatory.

Soon after the Washington Observatory had been erected, an observatory was built at Cincinnati. Its history illustrates well the way of carrying out such work in America, when the Government does not take the work in hand. The idea of erecting an important observatory in Cincinnati was first entertained by Prof. Mitchel, then Professor of Mathematics at Cincinnati College. He proposed to attempt the task without any aid from the General or State Government, by the voluntary contribution of all classes of citizens. To ascertain whether any interest could be excited in the public mind in favor of astronomy, he delivered, in the spring of 1842, a series of lectures in the hall of the Cincinnati College. With truly American ingenuity he devised a mechanical contrivance, by help of which telescopic views in the heavens were presented with a brilliancy comparable with that "displayed by powerful telescopes." These lectures were attended by large audiences, and I may add, in passing, that the interest which they excited is to this day well remembered in Cincin-