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Title Perkins Observatory
Date 1937
Object Name Print, Photographic
Place Ohio/Delaware County/City of Delaware/Columbus Pike/3199
Search Terms Perkins Observatory
Olentangy River
Description Looking east towards Perkins Observatory from west of the Olentangy River, from Delaware County - Through The Lens

The observatory is named for Hiram Perkins, a professor of mathematics and astronomy at the Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio from 1857 to 1907. A devoutly religious Methodist and a man of deep convictions, he was also known as an uncompromising and demanding instructor.

Perkins graduated from Ohio Wesleyan in 1857, just nine years after the university was founded. He was immediately offered a position on the faculty. Shortly thereafter he married Caroline Barkdull, a graduate from OWU’s Women’s College.

In 1861 Perkins temporarily left OWU when the American Civil War began. He intended to enlist in the Union Army, but was deemed physically unfit for service. (At 6’4” tall and 97 pounds, his students referred to him as “the human skeleton.”) Perkins then returned to his family hog farm and worked to help feed the troops. (Salt pork was a staple military food at the time.) Applying his mathematical skills to the science of pork production, by war’s end he had amassed an impressive (for the time) fortune. After the war Perkins returned to his university teaching position and lived a very frugal life on his small salary. Meanwhile, his shrewd business investments caused his fortune to multiply considerably.

In 1896 Professor Perkins donated the funds necessary to build the first of two observatories to bear his name. It is located on West William Street in Delaware, Ohio right next to Hiram and Caroline’s former residence. This original “Perkins Astronomical Observatory” later had its name changed to “the Student Observatory” when the second Perkins Observatory was built a quarter century later.

Perkins’s marriage never produced children. His older sister never married. Therefore, toward the end of his life Perkins realized he had no living relatives to whom to leave his fortune. Retiring in 1907, Professor Perkins applied himself to the creation of “an astronomical observatory of importance.” It was his desire that this second observatory be a place where cutting-edge research could be conducted. It took 15 years to find an appropriate location and secure the necessary funding (Perkins himself provided about $250,000 of the approximately $350,000 budget).

Construction began in 1923 with the frail 90-year-old professor as Guest of Honor at the groundbreaking ceremony. Within a year, however, both Hiram and Caroline Perkins had died. Neither saw the completion of the new observatory.

The building and telescope mount were completed in less than two years. The work was done by the Warner and Swasey Company of Cleveland, Ohio. (Warner and Swasey also built other observatories and telescopes, including Yerkes Observatory near Chicago, Theodore Jacobsen Observatory in Seattle, Washington, McCormick Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, and (of course) the Warner and Swasey Observatory in Cleveland, Ohio.) The building included a lecture room, library, office space, walk-in vault, small bedroom for visiting astronomers, and spacious work rooms and metal fabrication shops.

However, Professor Perkins had stipulated that the telescope mirror be cast in the United States. At this time no U.S. companies had experience in casting such a large mirror, so the National Bureau of Standards agreed to take on the project. It can be argued that casting of this mirror launched the optical glass industry in the United States.

The first four attempts to cast the mirror were unsuccessful. The fifth attempt, using a different technique, created a 69-inch (1.8 m) blank (somewhat larger than originally intended). Three years of grinding and polishing followed. When installed in the telescope mount in 1931, it was the third largest mirror in the world. (Prior to installation of the 69-inch (1.8 m) mirror, the observatory used a 60-inch (1.5 m) mirror on loan from Harvard University.)

Source: Wikipedia, 01 June 2016
Studio Warner Printing Studio
Subjects Delaware County (Ohio)
Observatories
Electric railroads
Roads
Rivers
Print size 10" x 8"
Photographer Yehley, Robert
Catalog Number 1808.01.067bb