By: Dr. Paul Herget
NOTES: This transcript is an accurate representation Dr. Herget’s speech. Repeated words and cut off sentences are purposefully retained in this representation.
Thank you, over the door of the observatory is engraved 1873 and I’d like to tell you the story of how that got there. It’s a story which begins in the year 1809 the same year that Abraham Lincoln was born and it begins just a little bit farther west in Kentucky where a…nother boy was born to parents… who had parlayed from Virginia and they named their boy Ormsby McKnight … Mitchel.
When he as about 3 years old his father succumbed to the rigors of the frontier so that he was… half orphaned. And his mother was obliged to go and live with her oldest daughter who was married and lived in Lebanon (OH). So that this child was raised in Lebanon. And it seems that one of his older brothers was also the schoolteacher at that time.
He was able to read before we went to school and at the age of 12 he decided that he would no longer be a burden to his widowed mother and just like it is written in the Horatio Alger story he struck on the…. in the world on his own
He got a job in the General Store on one occasion he hired out as a teamster and with another s with the man who owned drayage wagon they drove a load of a drayage down to Cincinnati and back. And during the course of being employed in the General Store he found out, much to his surprise, that if you could get an appointment to the military academy at West Point you not only would get a college education but they would even pay you for it. The cadets got a subsistence allowance.
So that he succeeded in getting an appointment to West Point and when he left Lebanon he rode a horse to a … Sandusky, he rode a boat to Buffalo, and along the Barges of the Erie Canal to Albany, and down the river to West Point.
And amongst those who hazed the freshman, or the Plebes as the are called at West Point, was Sidney Johnson and Jefferson Davis. And when Mitchel graduated in the class of 1829, the First cadet was Charles Mosen of New York, the second cadet was Robert E. Lee the cadet from Virginia and 15th in the class of 46 was Ormsby McKnight Mitchel the cadet from Ohio.
In a way he was very fortunate that he received an appointment that made him the instructor in mathematics at West Point for the next 2 years. And, so in addition to whatever else he did he undertook a…to the study the law… as it was studied in those days.
And then when he received an assignment to a military base in uh…. An army camp in Florida he decided that was not the life for him and he resigned from the army, and he came to Cincinnati.
In the interlude between 1830 and 1850 Cincinnati was the most rapidly growing city in the world,… over that entire time. And so what ever his own foresight may have been at least he was fortunate to have come here. He had all the qualifications of a civil engineer because of his education at West Point and um…even while he was still a assigned as a Lieutenant at West Point he had certain expeditions doing consulting engineering work because it was the time when railroads were being built. In addition to what ever other things that he did during the… succeeding years here in Cincinnati he was the Chief Construction Engineer for the Little Miami Railroad which is the Pennsylvania line from Eggleston Ave out though Milford and uh…Loveland to Xenia and Columbus. And uh…some years later he was also the Chief Construction Engineer for the uh…Mississippi and Ohio Railroad which is the B&O line from Cincinnati to St Louis.
He attempted various things; at one time he was a law partner with E.B. Mansfield who was really uh…who turned out in the career of a literary man in a way. This wasn’t a shining success uh… at one time he opened a a private academy kind of a military high school combination kind of a thing. And by 1836 he was appointed the professor of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Astronomy in the Cincinnati college, which was the fore runner of the uh… First unit of the present University of Cincinnati.
Natural Philosophy encompassed everything that was known in those days about science. It meant Physics, and Chemistry, and what not.
Well, this was all very fine and since he had a military training he was a Captain of one of the home guard units and on one occasion he uh... put down a small riot and um…which was not as big as the riot of 1884 but is was only about 1838 then you see. And um… in the winter of 1841-42 he as invited by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge to give a series of lectures on Astronomy which he agreed to do. And these lectures began with a fairly small audience but you see he had no competition from uh… television or Monday Night Football or anything like that and the audiences grew. As a matter of fact he did a very ingenious thing before the time of our slide machine he made astronomical illustrations by cutting out a a very a thin metal stencil and then you projected the light though you got the appearance of comets, and nebulae, and planets such as Saturn and what not. And um…the last of his lectures was given in the Wesley Chapel, which still stands on 5th street to an audience of 2000 people when the population of the whole city was only 50,000.
So about 2 years ago when they threatened to destroy this building I went down there one time just before noon and stood in this place, just to stand in the same place. And looked around and if there were 2000 people in this literally had been sitting in the windows. <Laughter>
And when he concluded this lecture, he begged the indulgence of the audience… and proposed… in the light of the interest that had been manifest by this attendance. The power and proposition at that time. You must realize that this is only 50 years after the inauguration of George Washington as the President of the United States. He pointed out that in all of Europe, observatories and such sciences were was patronized by the monarchies of Europe the Royal Observatory at Greenwich the Kaiser xxxx xxxx xxxx of Berlin the xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx in Heidelburg and so on. It was the monarchs of Europe who supported the observatories. And in a democracy where the sovereignty resides with the people it was the responsibility of the people to be the patrons of science. And this in a frontier city, Cincinnati, wh th the almost th the the most western most city there was in the country. It was five times as large as Chicago at that time. And uh… he proposes that these people who took an interest in his lectures, should support an astronomical observatory.
And he proposed it in roughly the following way, that they organize the Cincinnati Astronomical Society. In the legal format of a corporation and each one could buy 25 dollars share of stock. And if they got 300 persons who would buy a share of stock they would have 7500 dollars and he would get a telescope and he would build and observatory and he promised to be the director for 10 years without pay… if they would do all these other things. And he promised that he would individually interview… at least 300 persons before he would give up the project and in fact what he did was to interview 1000 persons and made a success of getting 300 subscriptions. There wasn’t a single person in the whole city who under-bought more than 5 shares of stock, even the richest man in the city, so that this was a broad based popular democratic approach to the establishment with in a closed corporation of an observatory. And he succeeded in doing this.
This was not with out a great deal of difficulty of various sorts. Ah, some of which was the people were not prepared to pay in cash but in kind; and it is reported that the extreme of which was he drove some pigs though the street in order to get them to the slaughter house to get his money out of the deal. And in addition to that when the observatory was being built if there was anyone who was a competent workman as a bricklayer, stonemason, or carpenter or what not. If he would do 25 dollars worth of work on the observatory he would get his share of stock as a contributioning member of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society.
Well, when this thing had gotten … ah enough ah firmness to appear ah… it would be more than just a a fantastic and feudal scheme. He was commissioned by the officers of the society to go to Europe and look for a telescope. The president of the soci society was Judge Jacob Burnett… who was the leading citizen of the city at that time. And if you looked on the string of names on the charter of all the people who were charter members you will see the names of Grosbeck, Torrance, Shillto, McAlpin, Woodward, all the names that still reside in the vestiges of our city from the early citizens.
When he went to Europe he attempted to find a telescope that was adequate to his ambitions, and that wasn’t easy because they weren’t they didn’t have telescopes a dime a dozen on the shelf. And he didn’t find any to his satisfaction in London or Paris and eventually he got to Munich, where the optical shops of the famous physicist Fraunhoffer were still in existence. And there he found an eleven-inch telescope which he was delighted to be able to obtain if he could afford it. The price was $10,000 not $7,500. And he beseeched these people that if they would sell him this telescope at cost, he would guarantee that in the next ten years they would sell at least ten telescopes that big or bigger in the United States; and they wouldn’t take him up.
But the fact of the matter is, that within the next ten years there were more than ten telescopes that big which were established within the United States. So that this was not really a ah…fantastic proposition that’s all. But they wouldn’t take him up. So he…he he sort of put down a down payment as it were and came back home. Before he came back home he went to the Greenwich Observatory and studied under the Astronomer Royal for ah…about three or four months and that was the extent of his ah…specific technical astronomical training. But he was a man of great ingenuity and great perservirence and um…he had to raise the extra money to be able to get the telescope.
Where is the observatory going to be? He picked out the most likely site that he could find which was on top of the highest hill to the East of the city, you must realize the city was only down in what is the flat part that we call the basin. And then…he propositioned the original Nicholas Longworth or the older Nicholas Longworth that he would like to have four acres of ground up on the top of the hill. This was called Mt. Ida because Ida was one of Nicholas Longworth’s daughters; and he wanted four acres. And he got it on the condition that they would construct the observatory and have it finished in two years. Now in order to do this, he did have his own competence as a construction engineer. In order to do this… he bought a team of horses to save draying charges for pulling things up this hill that he needed in the way of supplies. They dammed the ah…river roots and creeks up there in order to have a water supply. He built his own lime kiln and they quarried the stone right on top of the hill. And he built an observatory building.
Ah..to begin with he only had three workmen, he had to scrounge around and get enough money by getting more members to join so that he could pay their salary on Saturday. And at the height of construction there were 50 workmen at one time, and they succeeded in building the building within the two-year limit.
Now there is another aspect of the story, which is both indirectly and directly connected with Mitchel. Um…in the year 18 Ah, Um…in the years around 1825 when John Quincy Adams was the president of the United States he proposed to the congress the establishment of a national observatory. And this became referred to as the Watchtowers of the Skies. And if you say this with the proper political intonations, you see, it means you’re kind of stupid to think the skies need any watching. Ah…you you have the proper political invective you see as you, as you pronounce this and his political opponents used this slogan against him. He wanted the watchtowers of the skies, as if the skies needed any watching and so he was completely a frustrated in his efforts.
Well by the time Mitchel was prepared to ah…had has his trip to Europe and was prepared to build this observatory. He undertook to invite John Quincy Adams who was 77 years old to come to Cincinnati and deliver an oration at the laying of the cornerstone of the Cincinnati Observatory. And he wrote he had the intention to go to Quincy, Massachusetts to beseech the Senator from Massachusetts, because after he was President he had been in the senate. But he told xxxx that Adams was visiting Niagara Falls so he only had to go as far as Niagara Falls. And he ah…invited Adams to come and lay the cornerstone. And in the book it says that Adams replied something to this effect. Ah…that I am an old man and and my my family and my friends will not want me to do this, but if I could lay the cornerstone of your observatory I would be prepared to die the next day it would be the greatest delight of my life.
Well, he did agree to come. And we have at the observatory a letter in John Quincy Adams handwriting, which I can read to you. As follows…
Professor O.M. Mitchel
the 3rd of October 1843
My Dear Sir,
I have laid some arrangements for the distribution of my time with a view to reach Cincinnati between the 10th and the 15th of next month, but on receiving your letter and that of Judge Burnett of the 8th ult∞ I have been an am endearing to accommodate my days and hours to your convenience. I proposed to leave my home on the 25th of this month allowing myself 13 days to arrive at Cincinnati by the way of Buffalo, Ashtabula and Cleveland. If some unforeseen accident should detain me beyond the 6th you will ascribe it to any cause other than my will. If the spark of your enthusiasm for the cause of science in the honor of our country burns in my bosom it shall live until the cornerstone of your observatory shall have been laid. Nor shall it be made delayed on hour by any neglect, indolence, or indifference of mine.
I am in great respect dear sir.
Your Friend and Servant,
John Quincy Adams
And he came to Cincinnati and laid the cornerstone on November the 9th 1843 in a very heavy rain on the top of the hill. Which from then on was named Mount Adams in his honor. The Ida Street is still there, but the Mount Adams is named in his honor. And if you go to the Golden Lamb in Lebanon ah… they effectively have a John Quincy Adams slept here, because that’s was the last night where he stayed before he arrived at Cincinnati, the next day.
In this oration ah… was quite extensive in accordance with the precepts of the time, for such an occasion. And um…because of the rain he delivered the oration down in the Wesley Chapel in fact, although the cornerstone laying was in the rain.
And this was one of the greatest events of its kind that had ever happened in Cincinnati that an ex-president of the United States should come. And so it was a gala occasion and you can read of the newspaper reports and what not. So the cornerstone of the observatory got laid. And in the course of the ah… Mitchel ah… con… succeeded in the construction of the observatory building and the telescope was shipped via New Orleans and it came up the Mississippi River and um… when it was installed there was only one larger refracting telescope in the entire world, than the one which we had here on Mt Adams in Cincinnati. And that was owned by Czar Nicholas the First of Russia at the Pulkova Observatory outside of Moscow. So if the Russians are ahead of us in Science that’s nothing new. <Laughter>
When Mitchel succeeded in mounting the telescope; perhaps the first person in the United States who saw the planet Neptune was his wife. Because in a telescope where you have very high magnification, you only see a very small part of the sky. So that attached to it is a finder telescope, which as a small magnification shows a larger part of the sky.
And Neptune had just been discovered in Europe. So that Mitchel told his wife, “Now you watch in the eyepiece” and he set the finder where he though it ought to be and on the basis of the reports that had come from Europe that with-in all probability Mrs. Mitchel was the first person in the United States who ever saw the planet Neptune in the year 1845.
The only thing which the stock holders had been promised aside from the feeling of satisfaction that they got in supporting science and an observatory, was the promise they might look though a telescope som…every once in a while. Which was fair enough.
And um...I could digress a moment to tell you several stories, one of which comes to my mind of a a letter we received about 15 years ago from a woman in Portland Oregon. Who said she was 84 years old and in her youth she had taught school down in Linwood, and she had a share of stock that her father had obtained in the name of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society and she wanted to know if it had any value. <Laughter> And I wrote back to the dear old 84 year old lady, who reminisced from what of her childh… youth in Cincinnati and her teaching in Linwood, and I said yes it has value, but not the kind that you’re were probably thinking of. I said the observatory does not have any single ah… concrete one of these shares of stock and we would be delighted to receive it and deposit it in the archives with a record of the correspondence. And she very kindly sent us this share of stock. It was very interesting because it was a sheet of letter paper folded over three times and put together with a a seal a wax seal and it had a 1 cent penny stamp printed on the outside and it was addressed to the Pike Opera House the second floor. Now those of you that don’t smile, I can tell aren’t old enough to know what the Pike Opera House was.
Well, um… all of this would have been very nice except the next year the college burned down and Mitchel didn’t have any job as a professor of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Astronomy. Nobody in the college had any job anymore. And he had promised to be the director for 10 years without pay. And so what was going to happen? Well, he solved this problem, at least in large measure by the following a…plan of attack. He took his experience at having lectured in Cincinnati, he took his experience at having been a teacher for college students and he decided to tour the larger cities of the East Coast as a lecturer. And there-by earn enough of a living in in the time the he devoted to the that he could afford the rest of the a living in Cincinnati and running the observatory, to the best of his ability.
And this is what he did… And of course it wasn’t easy. In the beginning he had no reputation, no prestige, no following. But his lectures were enthusiastic, they were lucid th they they had a popular appeal to the people who who had no other introduction to a what astronomy is really all about. And so he made a brilliant success of this attempt to support himself by means of being a lecturer on science. To the point that he was the outstanding popular lecturer in science in the whole country and was recognized as such. In fact when ah… later on when he ah… joined up in the Civil War ah… those some some the… I forget exactly who it was who knew him said that he was reputed to be the ah… top most man who who joined the union forces. That was not one of the regular Army Officers.
Well… he did succeed in this, this was not the only thing he did because he also had the opportunity to ah…earn money as a engineering consultant in civil engineering, bridge building, railroad const…<Break> so so on. But he was faithful to the observatory and to the best of his ability he carried out the promises that he had made.
Astronomically speaking the main thing that this telescope was devoted to, was the observation of double stars. Because at that time there was no other way to determine what was the mass, what’s the size, and what’s the weight of stars, except by means of studying double stars. And so it because of the latitude of Cincinnati. And you could see farther south than the Pulkova Observatory, which is nearly plus 60 degrees latitude. Ah… he had the opportunity to observe double stars that were not formerly observed, and and to gather data on on their orbits an and so on. Which he undertook to some extent to do. And in the southern half of the sky, right in the center of the constellation of Scorpio is the very bright red star Antares. And Mitchel with his telescope discovered the companion star to Antares. There is a very faint green star that goes around the bright red on which you see. And this is one of the most a famous discoveries, which he made in an attempt to study the double stars.
He was of course hampered ah… he was hampered in many ways the necessity to go out somewhere else and earn a living, the the requirement to show people through the telescope ah… this meant he only got to work after midnight when they all wh the were ready to go home. And um…so he carried on the best he could under these circumstances.
<Break in tape>
ing star that goes around. Then it all came about in the year 1853 there was what was known as a panic in the country. We call it a depression now or a recession depending on which political party you are in, and which one is in office. And um… in the panic of 1853 the railroad ah… between here and St. Louis was in dire straits and Mitchel took the railroad bonds and went to Europe and sold a million dollars worth of them. And the commission from this made him ah… com compared to what he was accustomed to, this made him a relatively independently wealthy, you see. He didn’t have wealthy taste, but at least he had a subsistence from here on out.
And then there was another story that has no connection directly with either Cincinnati Observatory or Mitchel. But in Albany, New York there was an endowment of 50,000 dollars which was a a bequest to for the establishment of an observatory. And between the astronomers, who were fairly impractical and the board of trustees, who were fairly unscientific, ah there was not a good meeting of the minds, there was more of a meeting of daggers and the whole affair wh was getting along in a very unhappy state of affairs. And um… a the these ah … financial men they kept point their finger at what Mitchel could do at Cincinnati which the astronomers in Albany were not able to do. So finally they invited Mitchel to become the director of their observatory and straighten out the mess. And this became the a this was the establishment of the Dudley Observatory. And he went there about 1859.
Well, it wasn’t very long after that when hostilities broke out and um… Mitchel of course had graduated from West Point. And um… So he felt it was his xxxx and duty to ah volunteer his services and ah… he was accepted as a ah Brigadier General.
And it wasn’t very long after that when the a city was threatened by the supposed advance of General xxxxxxxx from the a Confederate Army. And the people practically by popular demand insisted that Mitchel be put in charge of the defenses of this city. Because he was known to them and they knew the city was known to him. And they had confidence in him. And um… while this was a an unusual military arrangement it actually transpired that he was assigned here. And he a accumulated a plethora of volunteers early err… a late in the year 1861.
Because he as constructed the Little Miami Railroad from Eggleston out though Milford and on to Xenia and because he was not above recognizing the ah advantages of political back scratching. He founded Camp Dennison. Dennison was the Governor of Ohio. And if we were going to have a camp for volunteers he named it Camp Dennison. And ensured the cooperation of the Governor. And um… he used the railroad to go back and forth sometimes he took his own engine out of the roundhouse and rode up to Camp Dennison by himself because he could run a locomotive all right.
And um… finally he had an army which a totaled 10,00 volunteers and they went down wh when they threw up the defenses across the river they named this place Fort Mitchell even though they spell it wrong. And they insist on spelling it wrong to this day. He only had one “L” in his name. But that was named after him because those were the first defenses he threw up.
And then he advanced his army south across Kentucky and Tennessee. And at the same time that Grant captured Shiloh General Mitchel captured Huntsville, Alabama in April of 1862. And his superior generals Haxxxek and Buell were sitting in Louisville. And because his flanks were exposed he couldn’t defend the country and eventually had to retreat. And um... there also was a great of bickering because of the strange way in which he had received his command in Cincinnati and the way in which he received the whole army of 10,000 volunteers without anybody assigning him to it. <Laughter>
And um…so this didn’t sit very well with the fellows who had stayed in the army ever since 1832. And he ah Haxxxek eventually assigned him to a a command in Beaufort, South Carolina which is right on the coast of South Carolina. In 1862 the the union ah… forces had a a a stronghold; an enclave on the shore and it’s interesting that even then Mitchel made preparations for the useful an and a respectful employment of the colored people who were uneducated and who were gonna be freed by by the war. He took a personal interest in this social problem even before the war was ever over.
But he died there of yellow fever and um... this of course was a great misfortune, but so it was and the war went on with out Mitchel. Salmon P. Chase and E.B. Staunton a made fervent pleas to Lincoln to make Mitchel the Commander and Chief of the army. But a they didn’t throw enough weight or Lincoln though that Mitchel; he didn’t know Mitchel well enough and he didn’t do it. And so you read in the history books about the fellows who made a failure of the Civil war ah… and an and Mitchel… I can go I could have taken the whole hour telling you of his exploits. If you saw the great Locomotive Chase the opening scene opens with General Mitchel. Because it was he who sent a Andrews and the spies down to to steal the locomotive. And um... this was part of his a campaign to cut the confederacy in half. B by a by cutting the railroad lines between Memphis and Chattanooga. Of course during all this time such things as astronomy ah a are are in the background. And when the war was over a the Cincinnati Astronomical Society with Judge Jacob Burnett as the president still owned the observatory and ah Mitchel, the premier nobleman of the whole movement no longer there.
And so what should they do? Well as soon as you being the reconstruction period the first thing you do is not to start building up the observatory; there are other things to do first.
But by the year 1868 the members of the society ah decided that they would ah… reactivate the observatory and they a collected a sum that would allow a salary of 1,000 dollars a year. And they were able to find a young man who was fairly well trained as an astronomer, he had been to the ah he had lived at the Pulkova Observatory in Russia; for uh I believe two years. And and he was competent to to take over the position. And they uh… appointed him as the director of the observatory. His name was Cleveland Abbe.
And during the years 1868,1869, and 1870 um… Abbe primarily under took to obtain telegraphic weather reports from the west in order to predict ah what the weather in Cincinnati would be. And this was subsidized by the local chamber of commerce. Because amongst other things especially in the summer time this was exceedingly important for the packing industry, the slaughter houses. And so the ah chamber of commerce some what subsidized ah Abbe’s services. Uh… In fact he under took the study of prediction of weather to the best of his ability. And he carried this on ah…over a period of about two years. And when he left… ah… the a he went to Washington to a found the Federal Weather Bureau he was the first director of the Government weather bure… Federal Weather Bureau. And interestingly enough he was assigned to the Army Signal Corp. Because that is what you needed to get the telegraphic messages as to what the weather was in the west so you could predict what was coming. And now of course we have satellites and see it on your TV but 100 years ago it was somewhat different.
So that Abbe also left the observatory. And also the people who were members of the society realized that it was really impracticable to sort of pass the hat every year to accumulate the Director’s annual salary. And these a great a a a great fortunate combination of circumstance because it was just about that time that the Charles McMicken will be being probated and he had left ah...a half of a million dollars to be used for the founding of a school of education for boys and for girls. And of course this is a great deal of litigation about anything like this and the lawyers are the one who get the gravy and ah the the ah estate gets what’s left. And so it was whittled down quite a bit that it was finally interpreted that a co-educational a college or university a did not violate the terms of the bequest. And so in the year 1870 you have the rejuvenation ah…of the University of Cincinnati. Which has been a continuing a without interruption ever since. And at the same time, because the same kind of people were influential in the city for these movements that were supposed to be for general good.
It is agreed that Cincinnati Astronomical Society would give all of its property which was valued at more than 10,000 dollars; the telescope, the library, whatever they had. Unfortunately they were not able to give away the land because it had you see a revert to the heirs clause in it when it was not used for astronomical purposes. Now the reason it was necessary to give up the land was the industry from the city, and I noticed that there was a picture on the front page of the paper this evening a from Daniel Drake, the the industry and the smoke from the city was coming up over the a a Mount Adams hill so that it was no longer useable for for astronomical observing purposes.
And this problem was solved by a 3-way agreement because John Kilgore from the xxxxx here was willing to give the whole project 4 acres of land and 10,000 dollars to build a building. And um…the astronomical society which prepared to give all of its assets, all of its property to the city, with in turn the city though the university would agree to maintain the observatory. And there was a mandatory… this agreement included a mandatory tax levy of 3 hundredths of a mil and a promissive a tax levy of an additional 2 hundredths of a mil for the fund of the observatory. So this was the 3 way agreement that was made the land from John Kilgore was accepted, eventually it was even enlarged so that we have a total of 13 acres there. And the ah... th the a money which he gave was probably also a enlarged somewhat although I had no records of this because the building must have cost more than 10,000 dollars.
It’s the finest building that’s left in Cincinnati. There are some places where the walls are 4 feet thick and a I just hate to see workmen work on the place because it it it’s it’s sort of like defiling the the this fine piece of construction that was done 100 years ago. And the cornerstone that had been laid by John Quincy Adams was brought out and laid in the corner or our building. And you can go see it on the northeast corner. And it said ah “this corner stone was laid by John Quincy Adams November the 9th 1843” and on the other side it says ah… “removed and relaid 1873”. And so we still have the cornerstone that was laid by John Quincy Adams.
And um… By the time the um and and that’s how the 1873 got over the top of the door on the building in which we now have. A wh when the building was completed and the university got under way. The third director of the observatory a was named Ormond Stone who had been an astronomer at the Naval Observatory in Washington. And he was here a little more than a half of a dozen years. And then he went out to be the directory of a a observatory at the University of Virginia in a Charlottesville.
And during the time that he was here, bear in mind the <Break> Transportation abilities…the uh…Madisonville streetcar didn’t run then yet. Ah he had a students who lived somewhere in the vicinity or else in the basement because I I know somebody lived in the basement at one time. Ah he had students who worked for a Master’s Degree and in the year 1875 two of these students were graduated, and I have found in the a old and dusty papers of the observatory some of the essays that they had to write as part of there exercises while they were graduate students. And a in particular two of them received masters degrees in the year 1877.
One of them became the director of the a Observatory at the University of Denver a and remained there for the whole of his life and ah… a he was just far enough ahead of me that I never actually met the man. Ah… and the other one was a an astronomer at the um Naval Observatory and at Brown University. And in 1886 the first Ph.D. was ever given by the University of Cincinnati was given in astronomy to H.C. Wilson.
And Ormomd Stone had also been an astronomer who was primarily interested in observing double stars. So that he carried on the a problem which Mitchel had intended to a work on wh when he got the telescope.
And then in 1884 the next director of the Observatory was J.G. Porter. And astronomy was beginning to change and the the foremost problem which Porter felt he could contribute to when he came here in 1884 was to determine the proper motions of stars.
Now this means if you had a constellation of stars in the sky ah… though out one’s lifetime they appear to be fixed. If you looked at the Big Dipper, if you ever looked at it when you were in the Girl Scouts or the Boy Scouts it looks the same today. But if you measure very accurately some of the stars are moving a little bit. And how they are moving, the direction, and the speed with which they are moving, and what their brightness is enables you to build somewhat of a picture of the structure of the um… stars in the Milky Way. So that by this time proper motions a were ah a a more attractive problem. They could contribute more to the progress of astronomy than double stars. Not that double stars weren’t important, but this was considered more important. And Porter took it upon himself during all of his career from 1884 to 1930 to carryout a proper motion program at the Observatory. And the observers <Break> useable as an observing site and he procured a meridian circle in 1888 and um… because of this three hundredth of a mil mandatory levy he had an observatory fund a which was not accountable, as now a days. <Break> end of end of the year you lose everything goes back into the general fund so you spend it up within the the year whether you need it or not. Ah… he could save up, and he saved up the money of the observatory’s fund and bought a meridian circle and in 1904 he bought a 16-inch a refracting telescope. And ah… one of the ways by which he was able to save was to do his computing on the backs of the letters, which he received so he didn’t have to use any money to buy scratch pads. And this is the kind of frugality with which the Observatory has existed during all of these hundred years that it’s been on Mount Adams. And we still do that, perhaps more as a tradition than as a necessity, but just the same ah…we we still do it.
The um…work of the meridian circle was continued until about 1940. And by that time it was quite definitely evident that stars, which had formerly been observed, could no longer been seen. So that if if young people no want to shoot off now about pollution you know. Its really nothing new a th the it a before they were born. It may be a little bit different but but it’s not new.
An and so that the the stars with which Porter years had been observed. Th The atmosphere of the city the growth of the city the heat that’s generated by populations ah rendered the site useless. And so during the time I was gone ah… during the war ah I, I undertook every possibility to to get sound advice from experienced astronomers. And it was agreed that we could no attempt to continue observing on the present location of the observatory. Ah… b because it was was just a feudal effort. However there were other things that also influence this decision, because of the development of computing machines. And so our scientific program at the observatory since 1947 has been to serve as the ah International Astronomical Union’s ah… Center for Minor Planet work. And we receive all the observations that are made all over the world and we sent out the predictions of the objects, which need to be observed. And and we publish all of the improved orbits that get computed. And um… this work continues to go on ah ah in more or less indefinitely. And a taking full advantage of of the developments of modern computing machines.
So that when I see this 1873 I, I just can help but a feel that some how that the young people who are not stirred by the kind of devotion and dedication and perseverance that was exhibited by Mitchel, have lost something that can not be gained in any other way. And um…it has been a great pleasure for me to tell you about the observatory because it’s in your community; it’s your observatory we still show people though the telescope. Ah…when when Dr. Stone became the director, he realized that because the city had take over the responsibility, the prerogatives which the original stock holders had became ah… vested in all of the tax payers.
And we have…there was a time in 1930…5 about when I figured out that at that time more people had looked though our telescope than any other telescope in the world. The reason I cut off about that time was we had had a continuing program to show the visitors over all these years since a 1880. And the big observatories out west they only devote one Saturday night a month and they let everybody look at just one thing and that’s it. You know, you get one peek and you’ve had it and the next fellow. So by that time they begin to accumulate a greater number of individuals. But I figure out that around 1930-35 more persons had looked though our telescope than any other telescope in the world up to that time. And we continue to do this. And since this is in your community where you are familiar with all of these things; it has been a great pleasure to tell you this story this evening. Thank you. <Applause>
This recording was received at the Cincinnati Observatory in June of 2001. Marilyn Herget, granddaughter of the speaker Dr. Paul Herget, donated this lecture as a cassette tape. This cassette was then transferred to a compact disc with minimal audio enhancement. There is also a brief introduction of Dr. Herget before the lecture by an un-named woman, but the quality of this section is very poor.
It is believed this lecture was given as part of the centenary celebration of the Cincinnati Observatory.