University of Michigan. Observatory

Alternative names

Hide Profile

Observatories of the University of Michigan, including the Lamont-Hussey Observatory, the McMath-Hulbert Observatory, the Portage Lake Observatory, the Angell Hall Laboratory, and the Department of Astronomy.

From the description of Observatory (University of Michigan) records, 1855-1977. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34419011

Observatories of the University of Michigan, including the Lamont-Hussey Observatory, the McMath-Hulbert Observatory, the Portage Lake Observatory, the Angell Hall Laboratory, the Detroit Observatory, and the Department of Astronomy.

From the description of Observatory (University of Michigan) records, 1855-1985. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 82247021

The University of Michigan observatories and the Department of Astronomy have their roots in the university presidency of Henry Tappan. Following his inaugural speech in 1852, Tappan was approached by Henry N. Walker, a Detroit resident wishing to become active in university affairs. Tappan encouraged him to raise funds towards the financing of an astronomical observatory. Walker solicited funds from Detroit citizens and in a few months raised $7,000, an amount more than doubled by further subscriptions.

In 1853, Tappan left for Europe to study various educational systems and to procure instruments for the observatory. While in Prussia, Tappan met Franz Brunnow and offered him the directorship of the university's new observatory. Brunnow became the first director of the observatory and a professor of astronomy at the university, remaining until 1863. Brunnow offered the first systematic course in practical astronomy in the world and the new department was one of the first at the University of Michigan to offer graduate level courses.

The observatory building was completed in the summer of 1854, and the instruments were mounted the following winter. A meridian circle was constructed in Berlin and a twelve-inch refracting telescope, at that time the third largest in the world, was constructed by Henry Fritz of New York. President Tappan named the new observatory in honor of the Detroit residents who contributed much of the funding. In 1931 it was renamed the University of Michigan Observatory.

Professor William J. Hussey was made director of the Observatory in 1904 and began work to enlarge and improve it. Observatory equipment had slowly become outclassed by equipment in use elsewhere. Hussey traveled to South Africa in 1923 to select the ideal location for an observatory to map the southern skies. The impetus for this observatory was Robert P. Lamont's gift of a 27-inch refracting telescope in 1910. The Lamont-Hussey Observatory, consisting of a circular telescope room, fifty-six feet in diameter, was dedicated in April 1928 near Bloemfontein, South Africa.

In 1926, Ralph A. Curtiss became chairman of the Department of Astronomy and director of the Observatory. By 1930, the expansion of Ann Arbor created an environment not conducive to astronomical observation. City and university buildings limited the observatory's horizon, smoke and city lights hampered observation, and heavy trains frequently passed within a few hundred yards and jarred sensitive instruments. Additional observatories would be constructed to maintain the quality of the university's research in astronomy.

The McMath-Hulbert Observatory was presented to the university in 1931 by three donors, Francis and Robert McMath and Judge Henry Hulbert. A grant of $20,000 from the Rackham fund, another from the McGregor Fund and private contributions made it possible in 1935 to build a solar tower telescope. This new telescope brought certain suspected phenomena into clear view and disproved a theory about light-pressure advanced in England. For simultaneous recording, a second tower and telescope were constructed. Robert McMath designed all the instruments and buildings. The University of Michigan discontinued its support of the McMath-Hulbert observatory at the end of June 1979.

The university closed its observatory in South Africa upon the retirement of Director Richard A. Rossiter in 1953, bringing the lens and optical equipment back to Michigan. The Department of Astronomy turned to the development of a radio telescope on Peach Mountain near Portage Lake, Michigan, in conjunction with the Office of Naval Research. The Peach Mountain Observatory was begun in 1948, the result of a grant from the McGregor Fund and the university.

The University of Michigan-Dartmouth College-MIT Astronomy Consortium was officially established in 1975, leading to the establishment of the MDM (Michigan-Dartmouth-MIT) Observatory located on Kitt Peak, 50 miles west of Tucson, Arizona, and 6,300 feet above sea level.

Today, the University of Michigan observatories consist of three different sites, operating a total of four major telescopes. These include a 26 meter telescope at a radio observatory located near Ann Arbor, a .6 meter Curtis Schmidt telescope at Cerro Tololo, Chile, and two telescopes of 1.3 and 2.4 meter aperture at the MDM Observatory located on Kitt Peak near Tucson, Arizona. The university continues to maintain small telescopes on the top floor of Angell Hall. Plans also exist for the renovation of the University of Michigan/Detroit Observatory and its telescope.

From the guide to the Observatory (University of Michigan) records, 1855-1985, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn McGraw, Alexander Cooey, 1809-1893. Alexander C. McGraw papers, 1842-1893. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Robert R. McMath Papers, 1916-1962 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Watson, James C. (James Craig), 1838-1880. James Craig Watson papers, 1857-1881. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn University of Michigan. Astronomy Dept. Department of Astronomy (University of Michigan) records, 1962-1989 (bulk 1980-1989). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn University of Michigan. College of Architecture and Urban Planning. College of Architecture and Urban Planning (University of Michigan) student papers, 1924-1980 (bulk 1930-1980). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Curtiss, R. H. (Ralph Hamilton), 1880-1929. Ralph Hamilton Curtiss papers, 1907-1923. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Hussey Family papers, 1876-1926 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf University of Michigan. Observatory. Observatory (University of Michigan) records, 1855-1985. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn University of Michigan. Dept. of Astronomy. Dept. of Astronomy (University of Michigan) records, 1960-1989 (bulk 1980-1989). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Records, 1953-1974 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn University of Michigan. Plant Extension Services. Plant Extension Services (University of Michigan) records, 1907-1980, and 1991. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Observatory (University of Michigan) records, 1855-1985 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf University of Michigan. Observatory. Observatory (University of Michigan) records, 1855-1977. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn McMath, Robert R. (Robert Raynolds), 1891-1962. Robert R. McMath papers, 1916-1962. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Dept. of Astronomy (University of Michigan) records, 1960-1989, 1980-1989 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy records, 1953-1974. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Hussey family. Hussey family papers, 1876-1926. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn McMath, Robert R. (Robert Raynolds), 1891-1962. Robert R. McMath papers, 1916-1912. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Angell Hall (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith Angell Hall (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith Angell Hall (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. corporateBody
associatedWith Brünnow, F. (Franz), 1821-1891 person
associatedWith Curtis, Heber Doust, 1872-1942. person
associatedWith Curtiss, R. H. 1880-1929. person
associatedWith Curtiss, R. H. (Ralph Hamilton), 1880-1929. person
associatedWith Detroit Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith Dodson, Helen Walter, 1905- person
associatedWith Goldberg, Leo. person
associatedWith Goldberg, Leo. person
associatedWith Hall, Asaph, 1859-1930. person
associatedWith Harrington, Mark W. 1848-1926. person
associatedWith Hulbert, Henry Schoolcraft, 1869-1959 person
associatedWith Hussey family. family
associatedWith Hussey Family. family
associatedWith Hussey, William J. 1862-1926. person
associatedWith Lamont-Hussey Observatory (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith Lamont-Hussey Observatory (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith Lamont-Hussey Observatory (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith Lamont, Robert P. 1867-1948. person
associatedWith Maxwell, Allen Douglas. person
associatedWith Maxwell, Allen Douglas. person
associatedWith McGraw, Alexander Cooey, 1809-1893. person
associatedWith McLaughlin, Dean B. 1901-1965. person
associatedWith McMath-Hulbert Observatory (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith McMath-Hulbert Observatory (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith McMath, Robert R. (Robert Raynolds), 1891-1962. person
associatedWith Mohler, Orren, 1908- person
associatedWith Mohler, Orren C. 1908-1985. person
associatedWith Peach Mountain Radio Astronomy Observatory (Mich.) corporateBody
associatedWith Portage Lake Observatory (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith Portage Lake Observatory (University of Michigan) corporateBody
associatedWith Robbins, Frank Egleston, 1884- person
associatedWith Rossiter, Richard Alfred, d. 1977. person
associatedWith Rufus, Will Carl, 1876-1946. person
associatedWith Shaeberle, John Martin. person
associatedWith Shaeberle, John Martin. person
associatedWith Shapley, Harlow, 1885-1972. person
associatedWith Townley, Sidney Dean, 1867- person
associatedWith University of Michigan corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Astronomy Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Astronomy Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Astronomy Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. College of Architecture and Urban Planning. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Dept. of Astronomy. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Plant Extension Services. corporateBody
associatedWith Watson, James C. (James Craig), 1838-1880. person
associatedWith Woodard, C. S. person
associatedWith Woodard, C. S. (Charles Sherman) person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Ann Arbor (Mich.)
Ann Arbor (Mich.)
Subject
Astronomy
Telescopes
Astronomical observatories
Sunspots
Double stars
Weather
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1855

Active 1985

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6v74p51

Ark ID: w6v74p51

SNAC ID: 61842677