The Observatory, the fifth building on the campus, was dedicated on June 28, 1887. Dr. William C. Bartol, Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy from 1881 to 1928, secured the funding, completed the design, and superintended the construction of the building. William Bucknell gave $10,000.00 to erect and equip the building. After the dedication of the observatory, the Trustees voted to require that astronomy be "an obligatory study" in the College. At the same time the Trustees requested that the Professor of Mathematics report to the Board at its annual meetings concerning its use by the students. Students in the Female Institute and the Academy also could use the facilities of the Observatory. In 1895, Professor Bartol requested assistants in the Observatory.

Astronomy Courses Taught in 1895

In 1895, Professor Bartol taught two astronomy courses. The aim of “Astronomy”, which was the required course, was “…. to treat astronomy not merely as an application of mathematics, but as a science which forms an essential part of a finished education.” The students used the “ten-inch equatorial telescope” in this course. The second course, “Practical Astronomy”, which involved the use of the transit instrument and other apparatus, required the student “…. to make all such astronomical observations as are requisite in practical acquaintance with the subject of geodetic surveying, and to reduce his notes in the use of the nautical almanac and methods of reduction not involving the calculus.”

Equipment in the Observatory in 1895

The telescope under the dome was a Clark Equatorial telescope, built by Alois Clark & Sons in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It had a ten-inch aperture and a twelve and one-half foot focal length. The Clarks were the foremost makers of telescopes in the nineteenth century, building them for Williams College, Carleton College, the Lick Observatory in California, and the Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago.

The telescope mounted on the tripod, which is to the left in the lithograph, was presented to the Lewisburg University by Benjamin Pike, Jr., Optician, 294 Broadway, N.Y. The Observatory also contained a transit instrument that was made by Tertela & Son, Munich and a precision clock "manufactured under the personal supervision of the well known scientist, Dr. Leonard Waldo, Prof. Of Astronomy in Yale University." For many years, these instruments were used by the university to set the time for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The transit instrument was located behind the long window to the left of the dome in the picture. The roof above the window could be removed so the instrument could rotate on its entire North to South Axis.

"an obligatory study" BT '82-'20, p. 59 (6/1887)

"to treat astronomy..." CAT '94-'95, p. 44

"to make all such..." CAT '94-'95, p. 44

"manufactured under the..." BT "82-'20, pp. 58-59 (6.1887)

The major source for the information on this page is the Minutes of the Board of Trustees of Bucknell University, 1882-1920 (BT '82-'20). Additional sources are Oliphant, Rise of Bucknell; Theiss, Centennial History; and the Forty-fifth Annual Catalogue of Bucknell University, 1894-95 (CAT '94-95) and the Forty-sixth Annual Catalogue of Bucknell University, 1895-96 (CAT '95-'96)

This building in other years: 1915 | 1945 | 1965 | 1985 | Current
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