THE DEPARTMENT OF ASTRONOMY
THE Department of Astronomy at the University of Michigan has a long and honorable record. A professorship of astronomy, "didaxia of astronomia," was among the thirteen "didaxiim" proposed in the Act of 1817 establishing "the catholepistemiad, or university, of Michigania." A professorship of natural philosophy, a subject under which astronomy has an important place, was provided for in Ann Arbor in 1837. In the first published announcement of the University in 1843-44, George Palmer Williams, one of the two members of the original faculty, appeared as Professor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics.
Winfield Smith ('46, A.M. '49) reported that in the beginning no science was taught "except Mathematics by Professor Williams," but in the first Catalogue, under the general heading "Mathematical and Scientific Studies," Davison Olmsted's Astronomy, an American text first published in 1839, was listed with the work required of juniors. In the Catalogue of 1844-45 astronomy was first listed as a separate subject; it was given in the third term of the junior year. Members of the class of 1849, a half-century after graduation, boasted that they were "the boys who calculated eclipses of the moon from the desk of Williams, the Paternal." His biographer, the Honorable James V. Campbell, said that Williams excelled as a teacher of astronomy and in spite of meager appliances excited much enthusiasm in that pursuit. As early as 1849 the Board of Regents made an official plea for astronomical instruments.
When the University's teaching program was completely revamped in 1852-53 at the opening of the Tappan administration, astronomical studies were given particular emphasis (see Part I: Tappan Administration). A scientific curriculum leading to the bachelor of science degree was introduced parallel with the classical course, and advanced undergraduate and graduate studies were attempted. The new scheme would, it was announced, "require the erection of an Observatory, a large increase of our library and our philosophical apparatus, and additional Professors." Astronomy was listed in the scientific course and also among the graduate subjects, but there was a blank beneath the title "Professor of Astronomy and Civil Engineering," and it was explained that both subjects were temporarily included, so far as was practicable, in the study of mathematics.
Immediately after Tappan's inauguration a special fund for the Astronomical Observatory was begun. It grew with surprising rapidity, and the Observatory became the outward and visible indication that the new instructional program was under way. In the course of the year the architect was authorized to draw up the plans, and the President arranged for the construction of astronomical instruments in New York and Berlin. (A separate account of the acquisition of physical properties for astronomical instruction and research at the University, including lands, buildings, and equipment, is given in Part III: Astronomical Observatories at Ann Arbor.)
President Tappan offered the position of professor of astronomy and director of the Observatory first to Professor W. A. Norton of Yale College and then to Dr. B. A. Gould of Boston, but both declined. In the course of these negotiations Professor Haven called the President's attention to Professor Alexander Winchell, of the University of Alabama, Page 443and vouched for his ability to manage the astronomical program as well as to teach the natural and physical sciences and engineering. Winchell was engaged to come in January, 1854, as Professor of Physics and Civil Engineering, however, and the search for an astronomer continued.
The President was in correspondence at the time with Dr. Franz F. E. Brünnow of Berlin, who, with Professor J. F. Encke, was supervising the construction of astronomical instruments for the University. Brünnow expressed his enthusiastic admiration of the meridian circle and said he would envy the astronomer who would have the good fortune to use it. Tappan conceived the idea of bringing him to Michigan. He consulted American astronomers, and they bore unanimous testimony to Brünnow's eminent qualifications. Gould, however, advised against the appointment because he doubted the wisdom of engaging foreign professors to teach in American universities. Tappan ruled otherwise. He claimed that "the republic of letters overleaps national boundaries," and that if the growth of a finer native scholarship could be fostered by the importation of an eminent foreigner "even a peculiar national interest" would be served. Moreover, because the Observatory ranked high in the perfection of its instruments, its management would require a master hand.
Franz Friedrich Ernst Brünnow (Ph.D. Berlin '43) was thirty-three at the time he was offered the position of Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory at Ann Arbor in 1854. He was a native of Berlin, and the son of a privy councilor of state. In the University of Berlin he was the favorite pupil of Encke and one of the notable group — including Galle, Bremiker, and D'Arrest — that had gathered about that great astronomer. He was present when Neptune was first recognized, and his notification of its discovery was one of the first to reach England. After serving as assistant to Encke in the Royal Observatory of Berlin he was in 1847 appointed Director of Bilk Observatory, near Düsseldorf, and in 1851 he returned to the Royal Observatory, succeeding Galle as First Assistant to the Director. In the meantime (1848) he published his Mémoire sur la comète de Vico, which brought him the gold medal of the Royal Institute of the Netherlands. He had contributed papers on the orbits of minor planets and comets to the Astronomische Nachrichten, and was the first astronomer to calculate the tables of the asteroids. Humboldt was greatly interested in his career; he urged Brünnow to accept the Michigan offer and looked forward to the contributions he would make in the New World.
The young man's acceptance, according to rumor perhaps apocryphal, was stimulated by a desire to escape personal pursuit. Encke had three daughters, who were fine girls and excellent hausfrauen, but they unfortunately lacked personal beauty. Encke's attachment for Brünnow extended to a desire to have him for a son-in-law. The wilds of the New World offered Brünnow a means of escape; but he later became the son-in-law of President Tappan.
Brünnow reached Ann Arbor in July, 1854. That fall, as the Catalogue of 1854-55 announced, the Observatory building was completed, the transit mounted, and the astronomer had begun his observations. A higher, or "university," course in astronomy was added to the curriculum, and the Observatory instruments were available to students prepared to use them.
But though Brünnow's arrival had been much heralded, his introduction to Ann Arbor was not free from embarrassment. Attacks on President Tappan's Page 444"Prussianism" became more pointed. The Detroit Free Press commented that the Regents had brought an assistant from the "Royal Observatory of Prussia" to take charge of the "Royal Observatory at Ann Arbor" (Perry, p. 206). Students complained that they could not understand Brünnow's lectures. Apparently undisturbed, he quietly proceeded with his work.
When the Walker meridian circle arrived from Berlin in September, 1854, he tested it for systematic errors, and, according to one reviewer, his published table of corrections for this instrument, computed for every fifth degree in position, is perhaps not to be surpassed for thoroughness by anything similar in the whole range of astronomical literature. The sidereal clock and other instruments were installed, but serious difficulties were encountered in the construction and installation of the large telescope from New York — first a long delay, then the temporary use of a loaned instrument, the rejection of the telescope when delivered, revision of the contract, and finally, in March, 1856, a new campaign for funds.
Brünnow soon attacked the problem of "raising up native astronomers," in accordance with President Tappan's expectations. Although an American astronomer needed systematic training in which higher courses in theory should be correlated with practice in the use of instruments under expert guidance, such training was not provided by the only other observatories in the United States that had comparable equipment — Washington, Cincinnati, and Harvard.
At the University of Michigan the basic undergraduate course in astronomy was given early in the junior year. As a senior the student might enroll upon a two-year program of advanced study, which was only briefly referred to in the Catalogue during Brünnow's first two years at Michigan, but was announced in some detail for the year 1856-57:
- 1. An introductory course, with general regard to the History of Astronomy.
- 2. Spherical Astronomy and theory of the instruments.
- 3. Calculation of orbits of the celestial bodies.
- 4. Numerical calculus; theory of intergrolutions; evolution of differentials and integrals from a series of numerical values; method of the least squares.
- 5. Physical Astronomy; calculation of special and general perturbations of the heavenly bodies.
(The fact that "intergrolutions" for "interpolations" could appear in print, in the description of Course 4, is an interesting side light on the newness and strangeness of the subjects treated, and perhaps also on the unfamiliar script of Brünnow.)
His Lehrbuch der sphärischen Astronomie had won wide acceptance and had been translated into French, Russian, Italian, and Spanish, and his Tables of Flora was published in Berlin in 1855. His professional ability, already established in Europe, was soon recognized in America and helped bring the University of Michigan a reputation for scientific achievement.
As early as March, 1857, Cleveland Abbe wrote to "every astronomer in the country," inquiring about courses of study in astronomy and practice with astronomical instruments, and was told to study in Ann Arbor if he could not go to one of the famous European universities. According to Robert S. Woodward it was Brünnow who introduced in America before 1860 the methods of "the illustrious Gauss and the incomparable Bessel," the German astronomers who laid the foundation of modern spherical and observational astronomy. From Brünnow are descended directly some of the most distinguished American astronomers.
… At nearly the same time Agassiz came from abroad to Harvard and Brünnow to Michigan. We all know the list of distinguished naturalists trained under Agassiz … From Michigan have come, as is not so well known, one-fourth of our distinguished astronomers.
(Quoted in Mich. Alum., 22 : 6.)
But although gifted students were attracted and the lectures were of high quality, the enrollment was not large. In one course Brünnow lectured to a single student. When he was asked, "Why do you devote so much time to so small a class?" he replied, "That class consists of Watson." Later events showed that his high estimate of this particular student was fully justified. Professor Andrew D. White years afterward remarked, "The best audience any professor ever had in this University was the audience of Dr. Brünnow when he was lecturing to his single pupil, Watson" (Adams, p. 13).
James Craig Watson ('57, Ph.D. Leipzig '70, LL.D. Columbia '77) was born in Ontario in 1838. When he enrolled in the University as a freshman in 1853 his home address was Scio, in the township west of Ann Arbor. He obtained the bachelor's degree at the age of nineteen. During his undergraduate days he mastered Laplace's Mécanique céleste, translated Prechtl's Praktische Dioptrik, and made a four-inch achromatic telescope. Prechtl's work contained instructions for grinding, polishing, and mounting such an instrument, but it appears from Watson's student notebook that he had also appealed directly to Henry Fitz of New York, maker of the large telescope for the University, and had received a letter from Fitz containing instructions for the process. Watson's notebook gives evidence of thorough training in mechanics, optics, and astronomy at the University.
Brünnow was the teacher not only of Watson, but also of Cleveland Abbe (College of the City of New York '57, Ph.D. ibid. '95, LL.D. Michigan '88), founder of the United States Signal Service, of Orlando B. Wheeler (A.B. and B.S. '62, C.E. hon. '79), and of Asaph Hall, Sr., who discovered the two satellites of Mars and whose son was in charge of the Department of Astronomy from 1892 to 1905.
In addition to his scientific achievements, Brünnow's quiet simplicity, fine spirit, and musical accomplishments won many friends on the faculty and caused those "who knew him best to love him most." Nevertheless, his administration was full of difficulties. The antagonism aroused against "Prussianism" in the University continued in the form of merciless but largely anonymous criticism of the President and Brünnow. The Observatory drained money from the fund faster than it could be obtained from subscribers, and as early as 1856 the Observatory debt was a source of serious annoyance. The young astronomer's interests were even more closely allied with those of the President by his marriage in 1857 to Rebecca Lloyd Tappan, the President's daughter; his trip to Europe, for which he obtained a leave of absence from March to October of that year, is referred to in Alexander Winchell's journal as his "wedding tour." While in Berlin Brünnow may have confided to his old friend Humboldt his difficulties as to the Observatory, for in a letter dated May 4, 1857, to the New York Evening Post, Humboldt wrote:
The supreme direction of an institute Page 446worthy of the States which move at the head of the civilization of the New World cannot be entrusted to more worthy hands. Attached heart and soul, like myself, to the prosperity, the grandeur, to the intellectual progress of your noble country, Mr. Brünnow will justify the sympathies solicited through your support…
(Winchell, MS "Scrapbook," I: 2.)
In 1858 he began the Astronomical Notices, published at Ann Arbor, as a medium for the regular publication of observations and scientific investigations carried on at the Observatory, and also to furnish practical astronomers ephemerides of newly discovered comets and asteroids. In this as well as in the observational work he was ably assisted by his favorite pupil, Watson, who was assistant observer during the two years after his graduation in 1857. In 1859 Watson and DeVolson Wood, then Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, received the first master's degrees that the University granted on examination.
Brünnow's Tables of Victoria, a very complete work on the motion of this asteroid, involving a large amount of computation, was published in 1858. For this work the Regents placed $200 at the disposal of President Tappan. Appropriations were also made toward the expenses of the Astronomical Notices. The first article of Volume 1 of that publication was Brünnow's "The General Perturbations and Elliptical Elements of Vesta," another valuable contribution on the motion of the asteroids. This was followed by a paper on the "Oppositions of Vesta." Watson contributed observations on comets and asteroids. Articles and observations were contributed from various observatories in this country, including Hamilton College, Dudley, Harvard, Naval, and L. M. Rutherford's, also from several in Europe, including Bilk, Upsala, Hamburg, and Madrid. "On a Magnetic Break-circuit" describes a contribution by Brünnow to practical astronomy. In his words, "I hit upon the idea of using the attractive force of a small magnet connected with the pendulum." The small break-circuit mechanism "was executed with great nicety" by R. F. Bond of Boston; it could be applied to the pendulum of any clock without making alterations of the clock necessary or disturbing its uniform rate. A mention of the new mechanism was followed by an article by Bond on his isodynamic escapement.
The disturbing criticisms continued — that the Observatory was too extravagant a project for a state university, that the department reached only a few students, and that they could not understand Brünnow's English. He felt, however, that the success of the Observatory was assured, especially as it was to collaborate with two of the best American observatories in a great task, a large catalogue of stars, but he resigned in 1859 and went to Dudley Observatory, Albany, as Associate Director. His resignation was accepted apparently in good faith by the Regents, resolutions of commendation were passed, and the impression was given that he had left for the sake of a higher salary (see also Part I: Tappan Administration). He retained the directorship of the Observatory at Ann Arbor without salary, and offered to advise Watson, who was left in charge. At the same time, the Regents changed Watson's title to Professor of Astronomy and Instructor in Mathematics, against the advice of President Tappan, who considered the professorship premature.
New troubles arose, chiefly as to the relative merits of published astronomical observations by Watson and Brünnow and as to Watson's conduct of the Observatory. Watson's contributions were Page 447characterized as routine observations which any assistant might make, whereas those of Brünnow, though fewer in number, were said to be more important and to have involved a larger amount of labor in computation. Watson replied that whereas Brünnow had eight published contributions between July, 1854, and September, 1858, he had twenty-one (one report gives twenty-eight), and that although some of them were of minor importance others were more valuable: he had reported the discovery of a comet and the independent though not earliest discovery of a new asteroid, Aglaia, and his paper, "The Orbit of Donati's Comet," in 1858, was accepted as authoritative.
Watson replied to the charges that no observations had been made in 1859-60, that he had failed to respond to telegraphic signals in longitude determination, and that students and others were not permitted to visit the Observatory. He pointed out that Brünnow had taught only a few courses and had had an assistant observer for routine work, whereas he, Watson, had none in 1859-60 and was carrying a heavy teaching load in mathematics and astronomy. He claimed that he had had to entertain visitors and that in spite of these handicaps observations had been carried on and computations had been made.
The Regents were kindly disposed toward Watson; at his request they appropriated funds for improving the building, and their resolution to restrict visitors to the Observatory to one night a month, although it was tabled, is also indicative of their sympathetic attitude.
Friends of the Observatory, however, especially the Detroit contributors, urged the Board of Regents to endeavor to induce Brünnow to return. The result was his reappointment at a higher salary ($1,500) to begin October 1, 1860. Watson was appointed Professor of Physics and Instructor in Mathematics at a salary of $1,000, which he declined at first but finally accepted. Brünnow's return to Ann Arbor was mentioned in the Astronomical Notices, fourteen numbers of which had been published at Albany. Publication at Ann Arbor was resumed in October, 1860, and was continued through the issuance of the twenty-ninth and last number on March 18, 1862.
In the summer of 1860 Brünnow visited Peters at Hamilton College Observatory and with him observed a partial solar eclipse, recording the time of beginning and end.
In addition to the work on star positions in co-operation with Mitchell, Brünnow undertook to observe all double stars south of the equator visible at Ann Arbor, and to furnish regular observations on eight assigned asteroids, also observational data on all newly discovered asteroids and comets.
Arrangements were made to carry out meridian-circle observations in connection with Hamilton College for the determination of the longitude of the Detroit Observatory. The value derived by Brünnow in 1861 was 5h34m54s.87 W. The adopted value for Harvard, with which Hamilton had been connected, was revised later, and the longitude of the Walker meridian circle at Ann Arbor is now fixed at 5h34m55s.27 W. Brünnow's value for the latitude was +42° 16'48."0, in close agreement with the present adopted value +42°16'48."7.
An article on flexure by Brünnow appeared in 1861. Star observations, however, constituted his chief work during the remainder of his period of service in Ann Arbor. At the end of President Tappan's administration in 1863, Brünnow left for Germany, taking his star observations with him.
In the meantime Watson, as Professor of Physics and Instructor in Mathematics, had continued to contribute publications Page 448in astronomy, but not of an observational nature. In 1860 his Popular Treatise on Comets appeared. He disproved that "dry fogs" were caused by comets and branded Whiston's attempt to account for the Biblical flood by their influence "the effect of a mind devoted to speculations." He included discussion of a resisting medium, the nebular hypothesis, and the stability of the solar system, and concluded with general remarks on infinity and Omnipotence.
He became interested through Gould in the reduction of the Washington Zones, and devoted much time to this work.
His article, "On the Correction of the Elements of the Orbit of a Comet," published in the American Journal of Science and Arts in 1863, later became the subject of attack.
While teaching at Michigan Brünnow had felt the need of an English text on spherical astronomy and had made arrangements to translate his own Lehrbuch der sphärischen Astronomie, but only after his return to Germany was he able to complete his translation, which was published in 1864. In the following year he became Astronomer Royal of Scotland and Andrews Professor of Astronomy at the University of Dublin. His son, Rudolph Ernst Brünnow, later became professor of oriental languages at Heidelberg University.
The administration of Watson as Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory began auspiciously in the fall of 1863. The resolution appointing him in August of that year lists, in his support, the leading astronomers in the United States, including Professor Elias Loomis of Yale College, Professor Benjamin Peirce of Harvard College, Dr. B. A. Gould of the United States Coast Survey, Professor William Chauvenet of Washington University, St. Louis, Joseph Winlock, the superintendent of the Nautical Almanac office, and Commander J. M. Gillis, of the United States Naval Observatory, Washington (R.P., 1837-64, p. 1062).
The Tappan party, however, was yet to be heard from. Watson was accused of plagiarism; the charge was made that his article "On the Corrections of the Elements of the Orbit of a Comet" in Silliman's Journal was taken from Brünnow's notes. Cleveland Abbe contributed a paper somewhat similar but less detailed, entitled, "On the Improvement of the Elements of a Comet's Orbit: Brünnow's Method," and credited it to notes made in 1858 from Brünnow's lectures. Watson's contributions, however, continued to appear in the Journal.
There was another bone of contention in that the site of the Observatory was inaccessible and that its foundation was unsteady. Citizens of Ann Arbor advocated the removal of the Observatory to the campus. It was said that Brünnow before his resignation had favored this change of site, and Watson was represented as favorable, because he thought a better foundation might be had and that the proposed location would be more convenient and the instruments more useful. In 1865 the citizens of Ann Arbor subscribed $10,000 for the project and the city proposed to pay the Regents $10,000 for the building and the site. Tappan wrote from Berlin October 27, 1865, to Professor Edward P. Evans, of the Department of Modern Languages:
… Your account of Watson's maneuvering is very amusing. And they really thought to blast my reputation by moving the Observatory! Every body knows … that I am responsible for everything respecting the Observatory excepting its location upon a hill. That was decided while I was absent in Europe, & I had absolutely nothing to do with it.
(Perry, p. 352.)
President Haven presented reasons for retaining the site, and the Regents were Page 449in favor of keeping the five acres of land. Watson joined these forces and made an appeal in behalf of the Observatory, including among its needs about $3,000 for changes in the building, an endowment of at least $10,000 for one or more assistants, and a publication fund, at least $10,000, for astronomical and meteorological contributions. Haven, in his report for 1866, called attention to the resources and the number of assistants of other observatories whose contributions to science during the preceding few years he intimated were not as great as those of the Detroit Observatory, and concluded:
Let the liberal friends of science in Detroit complete the work which they have so happily begun; let the building be enlarged and let the Observatory have an independent endowment of about $30,000, the interest of which will support the Director and pay for the printing of valuable observations and calculations and other papers, and the whole will be a perpetual and noble monument of the far-seeing liberality of its founders.
(P.R., 1866, p. 3.)
… But, before the building is enlarged our citizens are interested in procuring its removal to a more suitable, central and getatable location. It has been for years conceded that a mistake was made in locating the Observatory.
(Winchell, MS, "Scrapbook," II: 24.)
The President of the University and the Director of the Observatory won the argument. The citizens of Ann Arbor were also convinced upon the cancellation of their subscriptions. The Observatory building was enlarged, both cities having responded to the new appeal with $3,000 each, with the understanding that $500 from Ann Arbor would be used for roads (see Part I: Haven Administration).
The courses in astronomy offered in Watson's time were similar to those given by Brünnow. In 1868-69 Descriptive Astronomy was included in the junior year of the classical, the scientific, the Latin and scientific, and the civil engineering programs of study. The special two-year program in higher astronomy was retained. In 1868-69 the description of two of the courses was somewhat changed; these appeared as "Numerical Calculus; Theory of Interpolation; Method of Least Squares" and "Physical Astronomy; Calculation of Special and General Perturbations of Planets; and Perturbations of Comets." A revision of the special program in higher astronomy was announced for 1875-76. Only the general topics which would "give direction to the lectures" were listed. They were:
Formation of the Fundamental Equations of Motion. Integration of the Equations for Undisturbed Motion, and Determination of the Elements of the Orbit. Theory of Interpolation. Calculation of Ephemerides.
Calculation of the Orbits of the Celestial Bodies from Three or more Observations. Correction of the Elements. Combination of Observations by Method of Least Squares. Special and General Perturbations. Determination of Time, Latitude, and Longitude.
Theory of the Instruments.
(Cal., 1875-76, p. 75.)
A course especially for students of engineering, Spherical and Practical Astronomy, was introduced in 1878-79. In the same year physics and mathematics were made prerequisites, and the order in which courses in astronomy might be elected was designated. Watson's general lectures in Astronomy 2 had to be preceded not only by Physics 1 but also by some elementary work in astronomy, "as Lockyer's, Loomis's, or White's."
Page 450Watson's discovery of asteroids was one of his outstanding achievements. Soon after his appointment as Director he began the preparation of ecliptic star charts to use in this work. Although the charts were not entirely completed they served their chief purpose by providing fields for search and comparison stars for the measurement of motion in the discovery of twenty-two asteroids. Watson found more than one-fifth of the total number discovered between 1863 and 1877 (Eurynome to Clytemnestra). Juewa was discovered at Peking, China, during the transit-of-Venus expedition. For the discovery of six in 1868, an unprecedented feat, and three previously, he was awarded the Lalande prize by the French Academy in 1870.
Watson's "bagging asteroids" became a well-known local phrase. An Eastern paper, the Providence Journal, Providence, Rhode Island, in 1871 contained an article with the following comment:
… Discovering asteroids is getting to be an every-day affair. One of the professors in Ann Arbor, Michigan, just received a gold medal from some European society for discovering nine of them … They are not of much account and gold medals might be more worthily bestowed.
(Chronicle, 2 : 57.)
He left a fund with the National Acaddemy of Science to provide for computing and publishing tables of his asteroids. The distinguished theoretical astronomer Simon Newcomb was on the first board of trustees of the Watson fund. The unruly asteroids provided a merry chase. Several proved so wayward that they eluded pursuit for many years.
In 1869 Watson accepted the supervision of work committed to him by Professor Benjamin Peirce of Harvard, Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, on the improvement of lunar tables for use in calculations for the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. Existing moon tables at that time needed correction, especially for practical navigation. Meridian observations and star occultations provided more exact data to check improved theory. In his report to the president in 1872 Watson stated that the work on lunar theory had progressed well. Messrs. Kintner, Edgerton, Burton, Ritter, Baker, and Chute, all Michigan alumni, were engaged in computation under Watson's direction at the expense of the United States Coast Survey. During five years' work on the motion of the moon, the theories of Hansen and Peirce were compared with observations. The result was quite satisfactory, but was not published and is lost.
Watson had charge of the transit-of-Venus expedition to Peking, China, in 1874, which was his most important scientific commission. Two years before the event he was appointed astronomer-in-chief of the expedition by the United States Government and was granted a leave of absence for 1873-74. Several parties were sent out under the commission created by Congress. The scientific data obtained by the party to Peking is included in the volume on the Observations of the Transit of Venus, December 8-9, 1874. All four contacts were observed, although the times were somewhat uncertain because of thin clouds, unsteadiness of the image, the "black drop," and the atmosphere of Venus. Mrs. James C. Watson called time and acted as recorder for her husband.
In 1875 Watson interrupted his return trip from the expedition to China to cooperate with Egyptian engineers in establishing a fundamental geodetic survey. For this service he accepted no monetary honorarium, but was decorated as Knight Commander of the Imperial Order of the Medjidieh of Turkey and Egypt.
Page 451He was one of the judges of instruments of precision at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, and prepared a comprehensive report on the horological instruments, which was published in book form in 1880. He was present when Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his newly invented telephone. The illustrious company present on this occasion included Sir William Thompson (Lord Kelvin) of England, the Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil, and Professor Joseph Henry of Princeton. One report states: "Most of the routine transmitting was done by Professor Watson of Ann Arbor, whose voice appeared to transmit most readily."
In 1877 an appropriation of $1,500 was made for instruments to observe the transit of Mercury May 8, 1878. Watson appealed in person and secured from the Regents a sum not to exceed $200 for a building to enable him to locate at the Observatory one of the United States Government stations for the approaching transit. Part of the expense was paid by Congress, and Watson's observations were reported to Washington. Instruments loaned by the government were returned, and an additional appropriation was secured to fit up the building and supplement the equipment for the students' observatory, which was being used more and more.
Watson went on an eclipse expedition to Iowa in 1869, on another to Sicily in 1870, and on one to Wyoming in 1878. For the eclipse in 1869 Congress appropriated $5,000 for Professor J. H. C. Coffin, superintendent of the American Nautical Almanac, who established his station at Burlington, Iowa. Watson, stationed at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, made the preliminary computations and directed the program, personally observing the prominences, their form and distribution, and also the form and extent of the corona.
On the way to the Sicily eclipse he was entertained at the Greenwich Observatory by the astronomer royal, Professor Airy, and after the event received the degree of doctor of philosophy at Leipzig and was made a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Italy. Upon his return to Michigan his speeches on his travels in Europe were enthusiastically received.
The year 1878 centered Watson's attention on the problem of "Vulcan," a hypothetical planet within Mercury's orbit, postulated by Leverrier to account for the discrepancy between the observed and computed advance in the longitude of the perihelion of Mercury. The "discovery" of Vulcan had been announced by Lescarbault, but later confirmation was lacking. Watson had obtained from Leverrier data with regard to Vulcan, including the computed times of its transit of the sun, and had made observations in search of the planet. For the solar eclipse July 29, 1878, Watson made a long trip to Separation, Wyoming, in the Rocky Mountains, to look for Vulcan. On that occasion he thought he observed one, or perhaps two, intramercurial planets. His observations were reported to Washington and also to the Astronomische Nachrichten. At the University this supposed discovery was accepted as "the most brilliant of the many achievements" of Watson. He had not only found Vulcan but also another planet. But the astronomical world was skeptical. Watson evidently was confident of the existence of Vulcan, for his later efforts were largely centered on this problem.
No one has yet given an adequate explanation of Watson's supposed discovery of two intramercurial planets. He was a careful and experienced observer, yet all subsequent searches have failed to corroborate his observations, and the consensus of present-day opinion is that Page 452no such bodies are in existence; at least of the brightness noted by Watson. Extensive photographic observations made during modern eclipses, mainly by Lick Observatory, have never disclosed any small planet within the orbit of Mercury, though objects far fainter than those noted by Watson should invariably have been discovered. The only possible explanation seems to be that the objects he thought were intramercurial planets were in reality stars.
Watson was freely criticized by students and public for not giving them the opportunity to visit the Observatory and to look through the large telescope. A few students expected to specialize in astronomy, but many wished to look through the famous instrument.
At the beginning of his administration Watson evidently desired to meet this demand. In the fall of 1863 it was announced that the Observatory would be open to visitors every Friday night. This practice, however, was short-lived.
The class of 1869 claimed that there was a "want of enthusiasm apparent" when they were studying astronomy, and assigned it in part to the imperfect illustration which the subject received. "Not more than one-half of those engaged in the study ever entered the Observatory," they said.
In 1874 the following complaint was chronicled:
… During the present week the Juniors have been granted the privilege of making this long-wished-for visit to the Observatory. A passing glance at pale Luna and girdled Jupiter was allowed each man as his row slided [sidled?] along the seat, and then his only sight of the big telescope during his four years' course was over.
(Chronicle, 5 : 199.)
Watson's absence while serving as a judge at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 was the occasion of a thrust by the Ann Arbor Courier at the "Accommodating (?) Director of our Observatory":
… If our "star-gazer" has too much to do [to admit visitors], which is possible, if he be not only director of the observatory, but director of the planetary system and Centennial as well, might he not at least on Centennial years have some assistance …
(Ann Arbor Courier, May 26, 1876.)
As juniors the class of 1879 showed more interest in the subject. They were "sworn admirers of Professor Watson and his mode of teaching" and looked on astronomy "as the most pleasant work of the year."
Student elections in his courses were undoubtedly influenced by the wide acceptance of his Theoretical Astronomy, upon which his reputation as a writer was chiefly based. This authoritative work was completed in 1867 and published in 1868; in 1869-70 twelve seniors were enrolled in the advanced work, using it as a textbook. Two editions had been published in the United States and one in England since its first appearance, and it was used as a text at Oxford, Leipzig, Upsala, Breslau, and Utrecht. It is a complete compilation and digest of the theory and method of orbital determination. In his preface Watson traced the historical development of the subject from the time of Newton's discovery of the law of gravitation and gave credit to the chief contributors to date, including Brünnow, Page 453but, with very few exceptions, specific credit was not given throughout the text. Watson covered the whole field very thoroughly and drew pertinent material from every available source, but his great power of assimilation made it all his own. His ability to adapt theory to method and arrange complicated problems in convenient form for solution remains unexcelled.
Watson advocated and practiced the lecture method and in this way contributed to the adoption of the elective system in the University.
His teaching methods were "somewhat peculiar," and the student response varied accordingly. William H. H. Beadle ('61, '67l, LL.D. '02) has reported:
… He taught individuals better than classes. He was selective in method, and gave chief attention to those who showed aptness and efficiency. The more one loved the subject the closer Watson was to him. Due to his great celerity in the use of mathematics and enthusiasm for astronomy only comparatively few kept up with his lead.
(Mich. Alum., 9 : 10-11.)
President Angell placed a high estimate on Watson's achievements. Regarding his pedagogic methods the President said:
In teaching he had none of the methods of the drill master. But his lecture or his talk was so stimulating that one could not but learn and love to learn by listening. Sometimes while discussing an intricate problem he would suddenly have an entirely new demonstration flash upon his mind as by inspiration and then and there he would write it out upon the blackboard.
(Angell, p. 232.)
Hinsdale comments that astronomy was one of the two fields in which the University's advanced work previous to 1878 really deserved the name of graduate study. It was the "old astronomy," a study chiefly of the positions and motions of the heavenly bodies, that was taught, although spectrum analysis had been placed on a scientific basis in 1859 and later completely revolutionized the study of astronomy by the introduction of astrophysics. As early as 1870, however, special attention was called to the need of a spectroscope, but many years were to pass before this urgent need was supplied.
Despite the Observatory's international reputation Watson was frequently hampered in his efforts to obtain instruments, assistants, and computers. In 1876 President Angell reported to the Regents:
It is much to be regretted that an Observatory at which so much work is done, giving a wide reputation to the University and making most valuable contributions to science, is not provided with an adequate Page 454fund for the payment of assistants and computers, and for the publication of full reports of the labor accomplished.
(P.R., 1876, p. 8.)
Watson was greatly interested in the offer of the directorship of Washburn Observatory, newly established at the University of Wisconsin; there he would have the use of a new 15 1/2-inch Clarke refractor and a prospective solar observatory in his search for Vulcan. A committee of the Board of Regents reported in 1878:
… Professor Watson has done and is doing a large amount of work in the field of original research and computation, not coming strictly within the scope of his work of instruction, and which he has hitherto performed voluntarily and without consideration.
(R.P., 1876-81, p. 317.)
Nevertheless, Watson left. He apparently made a tentative arrangement in October, 1878, and resigned February 7, 1879. On March 25 his successor, Mark Walrod Harrington ('68, A.M. '71, LL.D. '94), was appointed, his service to begin October 1. Watson died in November, 1880, less than two years after his departure; his illness was brought on by exposure while he was superintending construction of the astronomer's residence in Madison. The funeral and memorial services for him were held in Ann Arbor.
Harrington had been connected with the University in one capacity or another from 1868, the date of his graduation, until 1876. He was Assistant Curator of the Museum and also taught a number of subjects, including mathematics, geology, zoology, and botany. In 1870-71 his instructorships included French, but he was released from this duty.
In the summer of 1871 he went to Alaska as astronomical assistant on an expedition of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, and on his return in December, 1872, presented the University with about two hundred and fifty botanical specimens, nearly one hundred geological specimens, and a few ethnological specimens. He taught in the Department of Geology until 1874 and in the Department of Zoology and Botany until 1876-77, when he was absent on leave to attend the University of Leipzig. The next year he resigned and went to China as Professor of Astronomy in the Cadet School of the Foreign Office at Peking, but returned to America in 1878 because of ill health. In 1878-79 he taught at the University of Louisiana.
The measurement of requirements for the bachelor's degree by actual count of class and laboratory hours (the "credit system") went into effect in 1878-79, the year before Harrington came. Early in his administration the time devoted to Astronomy 2, General Astronomy, was extended from one to three meetings a week, and a new course in meteorology, Astronomy 5, was added.
Under Harrington more astronomical instruments for the use of students were obtained, as well as meteorological equipment, and the practice of issuing regular Page 455meteorological reports was begun. Tridaily records of the barograph, thermograph, and anemograph were reported to the State Board of Health at Lansing.
Schaeberle, Assistant in the Observatory, continued the observations (chiefly with the Walker meridian circle) which he had begun under Watson. Positions of 155 stars he had earlier observed were published at the Washburn Observatory at the beginning of Watson's administration there. Appended to Harrington's report was a letter from Schaeberle, who summarized the results he had obtained at the University between October 1, 1879, and January 1, 1881, as follows (Harrington, p. 20):
|Stars for clock and instrumental corrections||561|
|249 stars for latitude work||548|
|Struve's double stars||397|
Harrington had a short leave of absence in the fall of 1881 in order to do astronomical work on the Pacific coast. Further changes were made in the announcement of courses, and Schaeberle was given teaching duties as well as observational work.
In 1882 the Observatory participated in the work on the great comet of that year. This comet attracted wide attention, not only because of the remarkable luminosity which made it visible by day, but also because opinion as to its identity was divided. Some held that it was identical with the great comet of 1843 and Comet 1880 I and that the periods had been shortened by passage through the solar corona at a distance of only 300,000 miles from the surface, and predicted still further decrease and final fall into the sun. After perihelion the nucleus divided into four parts and even fainter components were seen. The view was then accepted that these three comets were different but followed nearly the same track when close to the sun. Other comets have since been added to this famous group.
The greater part of Harrington's published contributions was in the new field of meteorology rather than in astronomy. His work in establishing the American Meteorological Journal in 1884 and in serving as its editor until 1892 stimulated great interest and inspired investigations by others.
In 1883 "The Tools of an Astronomer," an article by him, appeared in the Sidereal Messenger. His thesis is well stated: "Our proposition is: that in the progress of astronomy the instrumental art has led the science and has also led advances in the sciences nearest allied." But, although he emphasized the progress which the application of the astronomical telescope, as well as of older instruments, had brought about, he only briefly described the application of the spectroscope and said nothing of its great possibilities.
Another of the publications by Harrington is an undated treatise of twenty-five pages, The Law of Averages, in which he describes the curve of frequency and gives an application of some of its properties. He omits the theory of the subject, and refers the reader to Merriman's Page 456Method of Least Squares for additional rules to apply. Mathematical Theories of Planetary Motions, the translation of a German work by Dr. Otto Dziobek of Berlin-Charlottenburg, was begun in Ann Arbor by Harrington in collaboration with William Joseph Hussey, but was not published until 1892, when both had left the department.
In March, 1885, Harrington obtained a leave of absence for 1885-86 because of illness; in April classes were placed under Schaeberle, and he was made Acting Assistant Professor of Astronomy at a salary of $1,600.
Schaeberle continued his observational work until 1888, when he resigned and went to Lick Observatory, Mount Hamilton, California. William Wallace Campbell ('86e, Sc.D. '05, LL.D. Wisconsin '02), later president of the University of California, was then appointed Instructor in Astronomy, and held the position until he also went to Lick Observatory in 1891. Campbell, who had received his practical training as an astronomer under Schaeberle, carried on the observational work, chiefly on comets and their orbital determination, and in 1888 published his Elements of Practical Astronomy.
In June, 1891, Harrington was granted another leave of absence for the first semester of the coming year and William Joseph Hussey ('89e, Sc.D. Brown '12), who for two years had been Instructor in Mathematics, was made Instructor in Astronomy at the same salary he had previously received, $900, and was placed in charge of the Observatory and of the Department of Astronomy. Harrington then went to Washington to reorganize the meteorological work of the government, and on July 1, 1891, became first Chief of the Weather Bureau.
The government work on the weather had formerly been under the Signal Service, where army discipline had been maintained. He was not a disciplinarian, and in the role of first civilian chief, with methods acquired in educational work, did not succeed as an executive. After four years he was removed from his position. Then he served for two years as president of the University of Washington. In September, 1898, he re-entered the Weather Bureau as director at San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was recalled six months later and stationed at New York, but retired in June, 1899, because of failing mental and physical health. Soon after retirement he wandered from home and no word came from him excepting a weird message or two and an occasional news item regarding a strange learned character working at menial labor in out-of-the-way places. He even wandered as far as China, the scene of earlier professorial service. In June, 1907, an applicant for shelter appeared at a police station in Newark, New Jersey, unable to identify himself or give an account of his wanderings. In the sanitarium where he was placed he acquired a reputation for great learning, which spread outside and was the means of his discovery by his wife and son in 1908. His condition showed some improvement, but he did not recover sufficiently to remain at home. He died October 9, 1926.
In the autumn of 1891, after Harrington's departure from Ann Arbor, Hussey's title was changed to Instructor in Astronomy and Acting Director of the Observatory. During the year some of the announced courses were not given; meteorology was dropped and has never been offered since that time in the Department of Astronomy. Hussey resigned in 1892 in order to go to Leland Stanford Junior University, and Asaph Hall, Jr. (Harvard '82, Ph.D. Yale '89), was appointed Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory.
Hall, unlike the second and third directors of the Observatory, was not Michigan-trained. He was the son of the Page 457famous Asaph Hall, astronomer, who had studied for a short time at Ann Arbor under Brünnow (see p. 445). Hall, Jr., came to the University from the United States Naval Observatory, where he had been assistant astronomer since 1882, with the exception of four years spent at Yale University.
The announced courses of instruction were continued with very slight change; they included General Astronomy, Spherical and Practical Astronomy, Theoretical Astronomy, and an extended practical course, Astronomy 9, to which only students who received special permission were admitted.
The new Director, whose father had urged him to do meridian-circle work when he came to Michigan, took an immediate interest in the condition of the instruments. Watson had not made regular use of the meridian circle. It was now put into good condition and re-examined for division errors to test Brünnow's results. Brünnow's elaborate series of observations of the Bradley stars made with this instrument had been taken to Europe. Hall resumed work on the Bradley stars, including some for latitude determination and latitude variation.
The need for regular publication of astronomical investigations conducted at the University was one which Hall recognized soon after he came to Ann Arbor. In the way of records very little could be found. Brünnow's Astronomical Notices, begun in 1858, had been discontinued in March, 1862. Articles on the subsequent observation of comets and asteroids made here with the twelve-inch telescope by Brünnow, Watson, Schaeberle, Campbell, and Hussey were hard to find, since they were scattered through various astronomical and other scientific publications. Although Hall wished to establish a series of publications and succeeded in producing part of a volume, articles from the Observatory during his administration continued to appear in outside periodicals, chiefly the Astronomical Journal. Most of these writings were by Sidney Dean Townley (Wisconsin '90, Sc.D. Michigan '97).
A paper which Hall presented at the eighth annual meeting of the Michigan Academy in March, 1902, was published in 1904 by that organization, together with a reprint of pages 37-88 labeled "Transactions of the Detroit Observatory, University of Michigan, Part I. Determination of the Aberration Constant from Zenith Distances of Polaris Measured with the Walker Meridian Circle." It contained a historical introduction regarding the Observatory and a brief section on the latitude and longitude, giving the values previously adopted. Then followed a general description of the Walker meridian circle and specific details regarding its various parts, including a redetermination of the errors of the divisions of the circles. An extensive series of observations on Polaris from April, 1898, to February, 1901, was recorded, and the data were combined by the method of least squares. This involved a large amount of computing, for which a grant was received from the Bache fund of the National Academy of Sciences. The value of the aberration constant obtained was 20."683; this was rather large compared with the value 20."47, which was adopted by the Paris conference of 1896 and is still in use (1942).
The determination of the latitude of the Walker meridian circle was inherent in Hall's method of finding the aberration constant. He obtained +42°16' 48."78; from Hall's meridian-circle observations Harriet Bigelow (Smith '93, Ph.D. Michigan '04) has obtained a value of +42°16'48."76; the present adopted value is +42°16'48."70.
Hall's work on the aberration constant was the last he published at the Detroit Page 458Observatory. In 1905 he resigned to return to the United States Naval Observatory, where for the third time he held the position of assistant astronomer. He remained in the naval service until five years after the normal date of retirement; when he left the Naval Observatory in 1929 he held a professorship of astronomy with the rank of commander in the United States Navy. Full of enthusiasm and apparently in good health, he then began work as guest and volunteer observer at the Flower Observatory of the University of Pennsylvania, but in a few months was taken ill and died at League Island Naval Hospital in January, 1930.
William Joseph Hussey was called back to Ann Arbor in 1905 as Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory. In the first three years of his thirteen-year absence he had risen to a full professorship in Leland Stanford Junior University. He had later served as astronomer at Lick Observatory for nine and one-half years, and there had engaged in productive research on comets, asteroids, and other objects, especially double stars. By 1905 he had discovered 1,338 pairs. For the work on binaries in which Hussey and Robert G. Aitken had collaborated at Lick Observatory the Académie des Sciences in 1906 conferred the Lalande prize upon them both. In 1903, under the Carnegie Institution, Hussey had investigated sites in southern California, Arizona, and Australia suitable for the sixty-inch reflector, which was installed at Mount Wilson in accordance with his recommendation. Mount Wilson later became the site also of the famous 100-inch reflector.
In 1905 Hussey went to Egypt in charge of the Lick Observatory expedition to observe the total solar eclipse on August 30, and returned to Ann Arbor in October to begin his new duties.
Here he inaugurated a new era of progress. The reconstruction of Observatory instruments and the making of new parts were added to the work done at Ann Arbor when the Observatory Shop was established in 1906, and E. J. Madden, a skilled machinist from Pasadena, California, was brought here as instrumentmaker. E. P. Pegg and Henry J. Colliau were also appointed to the shop staff, and these three gave valuable service in renovating the old twelve-inch refractor.
In June, 1906, an addition to the Observatory building was authorized, and the Regents made their first appropriation toward enabling the department to do the spectrographic research that has brought new astronomical fame to the University. In January of the next year Hussey asked for more mechanics, the purchase of additional grounds, and the establishment of a United States Weather Bureau station. Through President Angell's endeavors the Weather Bureau station, which is still active, was established. The Regents authorized the appointment of three mechanics and interested themselves in the request for lands. Work on the designs for the large new telescope proceeded at the Observatory under Hussey's direction.
Until the fall of 1907 the new Director was alone in his teaching duties in the department. In 1906-7 he offered seven courses of instruction: the Method of Least Squares and General Astronomy, the Solar System, were the two courses offered in the first semester only; General Astronomy, the Stellar System, was taught only in the second semester; and there were four courses given each semester — Spherical and Practical Astronomy, Theoretical Astronomy, Advanced Practical Astronomy, and Advanced Theoretical Astronomy.
Hussey's plans for the department included not only the continuation of instruction in theoretical and practical astronomy begun by Brünnow, for which the University had long been noted, but Page 459the addition of courses in modern astronomy, including astrophysics. A correspondence begun in March, 1907, resulted in the appointment of Ralph Hamilton Curtiss (California '01, Ph.D. ibid. '05) as Assistant Professor of Astrophysics, to begin in October, 1907. While holding a fellowship at Lick Observatory, Curtiss had been associated with Hussey and Aitken. Since 1905, in the position of astronomer at Allegheny Observatory, he had assisted in designing the spectrograph at that institution. In 1907-8 additional courses were introduced, including History of Astronomy, Variable Stars, and Astrophysics; these were all assigned to Curtiss, who also gave the Theory of Errors and Elementary Practical Astronomy. The following year Spectroscopic Binaries was added.
In 1908 the Students' Observatory was moved to allow space for the addition in which the new telescope was to be placed. In the same year Robert P. Lamont made his initial gift of $1,000 toward the University's large refracting telescope for a double-star survey in the Southern Hemisphere. The Lamont-Hussey Observatory at Bloemfontein, South Africa, "the fruition of one man's generosity and another's vision," is described in a separate article (see Part III: Lamont-Hussey Observatory).
The single-prism spectrograph to be used with the new reflector arrived in January, 1909. In August, when the Observatory addition was complete except for the dome and the new seismological equipment had been installed, the Observatory began to keep a continuous seismological record. In 1910 the new forty-foot dome was put in place, in January, 1911, the large mirror was ready, and on January 31 the first spectrogram with the new instrument was obtained.
In June, 1911, Hussey sailed for Argentina. This came about as the result of an offer of the directorship of La Plata Observatory cabled to him in March, 1910, by President Gonzalez of the National University of La Plata. By the arrangement made meanwhile, Hussey was to accept the South American directorship and still retain his position at the University of Michigan, dividing his time between the two institutions, and Ralph Hamilton Curtiss became Assistant Director of the Observatory at Ann Arbor and was to have full charge during the Director's absence. This arrangement continued for about five years.
The staff for instruction and research was permanently enlarged during Hussey's directorship, and several changes took place. Will Carl Rufus (Albion '02, Ph.D. Michigan '15) came into the department as Instructor, and Richard Alfred Rossiter (Wesleyan '14, Ph.D. Michigan '23), who in 1919 was engaged as a telescope assistant, became Assistant Astronomer the next year, and in 1922 joined the teaching staff, is now Associate Professor and in charge of the Lamont-Hussey Observatory in Africa.
Courses of instruction were added from time to time as the department developed and needs were met. A course in navigation was introduced in 1917-18, chiefly for the benefit of men in the United States Naval Reserve units. Preparation for the ensign's examination for deck officers was provided. One hundred and twenty students enrolled in this course under Curtiss in the second semester of 1917-18, and more than half of them later enlisted in the Naval Reserve or Naval Auxiliary Reserve Force. After the World War, elections in the navigation course decreased, but the course has been continued. The number of students electing courses in astronomy greatly increased during this administration, and reached a total of 650 in 1922-23. In 1924-25 it was stated in an article in the Michigan Alumnus that the department had fifteen times as many students as it Page 460had had when Hussey's administration began.
The low-dispersion* spectrographic program instituted by Curtiss was devoted chiefly to the spectra of early-type stars with broad lines (Class B with emission lines) and has been followed consistently to the present time, although stars of other types have been included. The purpose of the program was early stated: "An effort to establish some classification which shall connect the spectra (of Class Be stars) more closely with a rational theory of stellar evolution."
The Publications of the Observatory of the University of Michigan, a series begun in 1912, served as a means of recording and publishing the researches of staff and graduate students. Volume 1, Part 1, contained a general account of the Observatory and its equipment, including the new telescope just installed at Ann Arbor, by Hussey, a description of the single-prism spectrograph, by Curtiss, and an article on the registration of earthquakes at the Observatory, August 16, 1909 — January 1, 1912, by Walter Mann Mitchell (Pennsylvania '02, Ph.D. Princeton '05), Assistant Professor of Astronomy.
Part 2 of Volume 1 did not appear until 1915. It gave evidence of intensive work on the observational program, which involved not only Class Be stars, but also the early Potsdam velocity stars not known to be binaries, zone stars (35° to 40° north declination) to sixth visual magnitude, long-period variables, stars of Class R (some to photographic magnitude about 10.5), and selected spectroscopic binaries. Observations of the moon, of stars of Class N, Class O, and other classes, and of new stars, comets, and planets were also recorded, and in the same number were lists of doublestar observations made by Hussey at La Plata Observatory, a record of observations of comets and asteroids by Hussey and others both in Ann Arbor and at La Plata, and the Observatory's earthquake records for 1912 and 1913.
Higher courses offered by the department and the facilities for research in astrophysics attracted many graduate students. Eleven persons completed their work for the doctor of philosophy degree in astronomy between 1915 and 1926, including Rufus, Rossiter, and Hazel Marie Losh. There were six master of arts degrees and five master of science degrees conferred for work in astronomy during the Hussey administration.
Volume 2 of the Publications of the Observatory was issued in 1916. In addition to six articles by Curtiss, mostly in continuation of his valuable work on Class Be stars, it contained papers by P. W. Merrill and B. H. Dawson and the doctoral dissertations of Laurence Hadley, Rufus, and Clifford C. C. Crump.
Hussey withheld publications of the Observatory until a sufficient number of articles was ready to constitute a volume. Volume 3 was published in 1923. The studies by Curtiss again constituted an important part, and there were contributions by C. C. Kiess, F. Henroteau, L. L. Mellor, and Rufus, who had all been on the staff sometime in the period since Volume 2 had appeared. The photographic reproduction of typical stellar spectra by Rufus has been used in many astronomical publications and textbooks in astronomy throughout America and Europe.
A plan to increase the interest in astronomy in the high schools of Michigan and Ontario, fostered especially by William C. Weber of Detroit with Hussey's co-operation, was undertaken in 1922. A program of illustrated lectures was instituted. The outcome was rather disappointing Page 461to Mr. Weber. A more ambitious part of his program was the construction of the largest telescope that could possibly be made: an aperture of twenty-five feet was proposed! The project was discussed with President Burton, but nothing ever came of it.
The necessity of arranging for a new Students' Observatory became apparent in the fall of 1922. The laboratory needs of the department were taken into consideration when the plans for Angell Hall were discussed in 1923, but the new Students' Observatory did not materialize during Hussey's administration. This project is described in the article on the Observatory and equipment, which also contains an account of the efforts made during these years to prevent nuisances, to acquire new lands, and to remove the Observatory to a site outside the city of Ann Arbor.
In 1924-25 Hussey gave an extension course in astronomy at Detroit. About fifty enrolled the first semester. Curtiss and Rufus later carried on these classes, which with a few interruptions have been continued.
The total solar eclipse of January 24, 1925, was the occasion of two expedition parties. Hussey, in co-operation with Judge Henry S. Hulbert, Ralph H. Upson, and Francis C. McMath of Detroit, made plans to observe the eclipse from a balloon. A trip was made to Geneva, New York, where President Murray Bartlett and Professor William P. Durfee of Hobart College had assisted in making arrangements. But although $4,000 had been expended in preparation, a high wind and too limited an open space for filling and taking off prevented the flight of the balloon, and clouds prevented the men from making observations and taking photographs. Clouds also prevailed at Bad Axe, Michigan, where Rufus had gone with another party.
A life-long dream of Hussey's — the erection of a large telescope in the Southern Hemisphere for a double-star survey — was on the eve of realization in the autumn of 1926. Late in September he was taken ill with pleurisy, and feared that postponement of his trip to Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, would be necessary. With his usual fortitude, however, he left Ann Arbor on October 7 with Mrs. Hussey, Dr. Rossiter, and Dr. Rossiter's family. On October 28, at dinner with friends in London, he suddenly collapsed and died instantly.
Hussey was the first of the directors of the Observatory to die in office. His predecessors, Brünnow, Watson, Harrington, and Hall, had each left Michigan to complete their careers elsewhere.
When the news of Hussey's death reached Ann Arbor, Ralph Hamilton Curtiss was appointed Acting Director of the Observatory. On March 25, 1927, he was made Director, a position for which his heavy teaching responsibilities in the department and his long experience as Assistant Director had well qualified him. He had been actively in charge of all phases of the work during Hussey's many absences in the Southern Hemisphere. His sabbatical leave in the second semester of 1925-26 had been spent chiefly at Mount Wilson, Lick, and Yerkes observatories.
Many difficulties confronted Curtiss in the fall of 1926. In any event the South African trip would temporarily have claimed the time of two important staff members, and Rufus had been given a leave of absence for the full academic year to join the faculty of the University World Cruise. New members were appointed to the staff: Herbert Frederick Schiefer as Instructor in Astronomy, H. F. Balmer as Instructor for one year only, and Morris K. Jessup, a graduate student, as an assistant in astronomy. These three were assigned teaching duties as well as observational work, and several Page 462graduate students assisted in the observing program. Upon Hussey's death, the responsibility of directing the Lamont expedition to South Africa at a distance was added to the new duties of Curtiss as Director. His part in the successful outcome of the enterprise is recorded elsewhere (see Part III: Lamont-Hussey Observatory).
In 1926-27 the Angell Hall Observatory was made ready for the students. The observational and laboratory requirements in descriptive courses were thereupon increased, which may have had something to do with a decrease in enrollment. In the fall of 1927 visitors' nights at the Angell Hall Observatory were begun; they have proved to be very popular. A complete record has not been kept, but 1,194 visitors in all were received at the main Observatory and at Angell Hall Observatory together in 1928-29. At the Lamont-Hussey Observatory in South Africa 2,606 visitors were recorded during its first year.
Early in 1927 spectrograms of some of the brighter stars on the observing program were obtained with the new two-prism spectrograph, used on the 37½-inch telescope, and tables for the reduction of plates were prepared. Because of the comparatively small light-gathering power of the reflecting telescope and the difficulty of changing from the one-prism to the two-prism spectrograph, the latter has not been put into frequent use.
In September, 1927, the staff was increased by the appointment of Dean Benjamin McLaughlin ('23, Ph.D. '27) Assistant Professor of Astronomy, Allan Douglas Maxwell (California '23, Ph.D. ibid. '27), Instructor in Astronomy, and Hazel Marie Losh (Ohio Wesleyan '20, Ph.D. Michigan '24), Research Assistant in Astrophysics. These appointees, together with Rufus, have remained on the staff. Schiefer resigned in September, 1928. In June, 1929, the Regents conferred the title Honorary Curator of Astronomical Observation, University of Michigan Observatory, on each of the three founders of the McMath-Hulbert Observatory — Judge Henry S. Hulbert, Francis C. McMath, and Robert R. McMath, all of Detroit. This Observatory, given to the University in January, 1932, is situated at Lake Angelus, near Pontiac, Michigan (see Part III: McMath-Hulbert Observatory). In 1929 the department was so fortunate as to obtain the services of Edward Arthur Milne, Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics in Oxford University, who gave lectures on astronomy during the summer session.
The student laboratory work continued to be enriched by the installation of new facilities in the Angell Hall Observatory; otherwise there was little change in courses of instruction during the Curtiss administration. Student enrollment in 1928-29 reached a total of 534.
Graduate instruction continued to receive special attention; in the years 1927 to 1929, inclusive, six doctor's degrees and six master's degrees were conferred in the field of astronomy. Among the studies for the doctor's degree were two in spectrophotometry made possible by the loan of a Moll self-registering spectrophotometer by the Department of Physics; these were "A Spectrophotometric and Spectroscopic Study of Phi Persei," by Schiefer, and "A Microphotometric Study of the Spectrum of Beta Lyrae," by Mrs. Laura E. H. McLaughlin.
The project for the purchase of a more favorable Observatory site and larger and more up-to-date instruments again came to the foreground in 1928-29 and received the definite approval of the Board of Regents. Also, some steps were taken toward its realization.
Publications of the six doctoral theses was delayed awaiting the next volume of Page 463the Publications of the Observatory. This work was postponed by Curtiss on account of other duties, including the preparation of an article, "The Classification and Description of Stellar Spectra," for the Handbuch der Astrophysik. The publication of articles by members of the staff was also withheld in accordance with the plan to publish by complete volumes rather than by separate numbers.
In the midst of these Observatory and departmental problems and of many personal research projects in different stages of progress Curtiss was stricken with serious illness and passed away on Christmas day, 1929. Rufus was appointed Acting Director of the Observatory and Acting Chairman of the Department of Astronomy, and was placed in charge of the South African expedition.
All of the announced courses of instruction were continued during the year 1929-30. The total enrollment reached 535 that year; three master's degrees were granted in astronomy, and Walter J. Williams, Instructor in Astronomy for the period 1928-30, received the degree of doctor of philosophy. Williams' thesis, begun under Curtiss, was "A Spectrographic Study of P Cygni."
In September, 1930, Heber Doust Curtis ('92, Ph.D. Virginia '02, Sc.D. hon. Pittsburgh '20), Director of the Allegheny Observatory, was appointed Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory. He arrived in October. Curtis, whose work had been principally in spectroscopy and nebular photography, had had charge of the D. O. Mills expedition of the Lick Observatory at Santiago, Chile, from 1906 to 1910.
Curtis,* Rufus, McLaughlin, Maxwell, and Miss Losh, who with Robert M. Petrie made up the staff in 1930-31, have all remained to 1942. Petrie, after having served as Instructor since 1930, resigned in 1935 to go to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory at Vancouver. His place was filled by Robley Cook Williams (Cornell '31, Ph.D. ibid. '35), who in addition to his teaching duties has given expert service to the University in the supervision of the aluminizing of the large mirror for the 37½-inch reflector. Curtis has improved the slow-motion guiding of this reflector. The Observatory project has progressed further under his administration, although the years of financial depression temporarily brought plans to a halt. New equipment has been installed in the Angell Hall Observatory, and the disk for the new 97½-inch mirror, which when completed will rank third in size in the world, has been cast and stored.
The number of students enrolled in courses in astronomy increased from 653 in 1930-31 to a maximum of about nine hundred in 1933-34, and then decreased to 710 in 1936-37. In the years 1931 to 1937, inclusive, eight master's degrees were conferred and seven candidates completed the doctorate, including one who received the degree of doctor of science.
McLaughlin has been in charge of the spectrographic program. He has also supervised the research work of candidates for the doctorate in astrophysics.
Curtis conducted a party to Fryeburg, Maine, to observe the total solar eclipse of August 31, 1932. Clouds interfered at times during partial eclipse, and light clouds were present at the time of totality, which lasted about ninety seconds. Excellent large-scale photographs of the corona with a forty-foot camera were obtained, however, and also motion pictures by the McMath-Hulbert staff with seventy-four-inch-, forty-inch-, and fourteen-inch-focus cameras. Flash spectra were made by Curtis with a grating spectrograph for the infrared and by McLaughlin with a two-prism instrument. The large interferometer for special work Page 464on the green coronal line, 5303A, was operated by William Frederick Meggers of the Bureau of Standards. This consisted of etalon plates four and eight-tenths inches in diameter with a Ross lens of three and five-tenths inches aperture and seventy-two inches focal length. Comparison rings were provided by neon plus mercury, neon, and helium tubes. Interference was recorded for the bright prominence and is suspected on the coronal ring. Curtis was of the opinion that the light clouds prevented a stronger record. He made plans for another attempt to obtain the exact wave-length of the green coronal line at the total eclipse of June 8, 1937, but illness prevented him from joining the eclipse expedition of that year.
At the beginning of his administration an accumulation of unpublished papers was on hand, including articles by members of the staff and theses by graduate students in astronomy. The system was changed to permit the publication of monographs. Volume 4 appeared in 1931-32. Volume 5 (1934) consisted of fifteen papers, Volume 6 (1937) contained twelve, and Volume 7 (1939) contained nine papers. The increased amount of published material by members of the staff and graduate students indicates that the change in method of publication was opportune and well advised.
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