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Miami Observatory

Miami Observatory, according to Walter Havighurst, in his book, The Miami Years, 1809-1984, "the remains of which persist on the campus now and occasion surprisingly little wonder," was on the Oxford campus. "A hundred feet from the front door of Bishop Hall is a sandstone pier, three feet high and two feet square," Havighurst explained. "A close look, which few have taken in the past half century, shows it scored with initials of students long gone from Miami and fading inscription: 'Designed in 1834 and erected in 1838 by John Locke, M.D.'" Havighurst said "this is the remnant of the second astronomical observatory in the United States. American astronomy began in 1830 when a scientist at Yale carried a five inch telescope to a college steeple and observed Halley's Comet before word of it came from observatories in Europe. The first observatory in the United States was built at Williams College in 1836, and the next effort came in Ohio. In 1836 John Locke, an ingenious professor in the Cincinnati College of Medicine, designed a stone pier for the mounting of a small transit telescope. This primitive observatory he sold to Miami before the year was over, and Professor Scott set it up on the treeless south campus. The old stone pier still shows one of the iron fastenings which supported the transit. In the spring of 1838 a small frame house was built of the stone pier, but it didn't last. On winter nights when a student's fire was sinking that shed began to go. It was all gone by 1840." Havighurst wrote that "Loomis' Practical Astronomy, published in 1855, the Miami Observatory is listed at Lat. 39 ¡30'N., Long. 84¡ 46' W.-- along with the other observatories of the world." In a 1904 article, Robert White McFarland, a Miami professor and former university president, said "the several changes in the professorship of astronomy here from 1836 to 1848 had an adverse influence on the subject." 


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