Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/384

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368

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

branch of Astronomy—Spherical Astronomy—that the college observatory was founded, and, if it does this in the right way, it is of great value. To do this properly, requires but a small outlay. A small equatorial of, say, four inches aperture, with circles divided to one minute, will serve to exhibit every thing of interest to the general observer, and will give a student much more opportunity for work than he can possibly find time to improve. A Pistor & Martin's portable meridian circle, two good clocks or chronometers, and, if one wishes luxury, a chronograph, will fit up a small observatory in the most complete way, and give both student and professor excellent means for observation. All this could easily be bought for the price of one of the unwieldy equatorials which lie idle in so many college-towers.

We must remember, too, that the professor of astronomy in most colleges is a busy individual. I have before me the condensed catalogues of 157 American colleges, with an aggregate number of pupils so great as 34,515, and, on running over the lists of college-officers, I find such entries as the following: "—— ——, Professor of Mechanics, Astronomy, and Engineering:" or "Professor of Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, and Geology:" or of "Astronomy and Physiology;" or, again, of "Latin, Astronomy, and History of American Literature," and many other similar mixtures.

All this indicates that very little time is given by the average student to any proper study of the subject, and the expensive and ill-considered observatories in the country certainly show that a great deal of money and time is wasted in their construction. The writer of this article is familiar with several of such ill-proportioned sets of apparatus. In one case, the observatory contains a fair equatorial of six inches aperture, mounted on a brick arch let into the walls of its tower a few feet below the floor of the dome, which arch receives every tremor of the adjacent building, which is full of students; also a fine portable transit by Würdemann, no clock, and a mean solar chronometer. In another a fine clock is thrown away on a zenith telescope, which is used only as a transit, and so on.

The moral would seem to be to have few instruments, to have them of the best possible workmanship for their size, and to have no one so large and expensive as to prevent the purchase of others which are necessary.

But it is proposed further to give a few reasons why, as a means of education, the astronomical observatory might well, in ordinary cases, be superseded by the physical observatory, or at least why in most cases it would be better to divert some of the funds, which would otherwise be spent on little-used apparatus, to establishing a physical observatory, on a modest basis.

And first let us remember that, to properly educate, we must not only give knowledge, but also the power to acquire knowledge; that, although facts are of great importance, the mental grasp which will