Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/92

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nati—no small proof of Prof. Mitchel's power as a lecturer.[1] The last lecture of the course was delivered in one of the great churches of the city (a thorough American and sensible proceeding), and at the close Prof. Mitchel submitted to the audience, consisting of more than two thousand persons, his plan for erecting a first-class observatory, and furnishing it with instruments of the highest order. He promised to devote five years of faithful effort to accomplish this task. The following course was then suggested: "The entire amount required to erect the buildings and purchase the instruments should be divided into shares of twenty-five dollars; every shareholder to be entitled to the privileges of the observatory under the management of a board of control, to be elected by the shareholders. Before any subscription should become binding, the names of three hundred subscribers should be first obtained. These three hundred should meet, organize and elect a board, who should thenceforward manage the affairs of the association." In three weeks the three hundred subscribers had been obtained, without calling any public meeting, and merely by quiet visits in which the nature of the scheme was described and explained. Then officers were elected, a directory formed, and Mitchel was sent "to visit Europe, procure instruments, examine observatories, and obtain the requisite knowledge to erect and conduct the institution, which it was now hoped would be one day reared."

When Mitchel returned, four months later, a great change had occurred in the commercial affairs of America. "Everything was depressed to the lowest point," and it was with great difficulty that a sum of $3,000 was collected and remitted to meet the first payment for the telescope of twelve inches aperture ordered of Merz. The best place for the observatory was a hill-top rising 400 feet above the level of the city. On offering to purchase this from Mr. Longworth, to whom it belonged, Prof. Mitchel was directed to select and inclose four acres, which Mr. Longworth presented to the association. On November 9, 1843, the corner-stone of the pier which was to sustain the great refracting telescope was laid by John Quincy Adams, who undertook the long (and then difficult) journey from Washington to give this proof of his interest in the cause of astronomy. When, in May, 1844, the great telescope was paid for, the funds of the association were exhausted, and the estimated cost of the building amounted to more than $7,000. In this difficulty a simple but again perfectly American plan was followed. Mechanics and others were invited to subscribe for stock in the Astronomical Society, paying their subscriptions with work. In six weeks not less than one hundred hands were at work on the hill-top and in the city. The stone of which the

  1. The same remark applies to the lectures which he subsequently delivered in New York, New Orleans, Boston, Brooklyn, and other large cities. It is almost impossible to over-estimate the service thus rendered by Prof. Mitchel to astronomy in the United States.