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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/714

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

so certain did he feel it to be his duty, that he consented. On November 9, 1842, he delivered the address.

The time required to mount the glass, financial depression, and various discouragements prevented the completion of the building and the arrival of the telescope till the spring of 1845, when Professor Mitchel commenced his duties. He occupied himself in the ordinary routine of astronomical work. He paid considerable attention to perfecting instruments for attaining greater delicacy of observation. He claimed to be the first (though he found a rival to dispute this honor with him) to make a clock record its beats, thus obtaining a graphical and more minute measurement of time.

The pioneer of American observatories was not destined to be long-lived. Before many years rolled round, the smoke from the growing city at the base of the hill on which it stood rendered observations impossible. Its immediate successor, containing its instruments, is located some five or six miles from the original site, and other observatories, built afterward, occupy many a hill-top throughout America.

At the time the observatory was finished, an accident occurred which at first seemed very unfortunate for Professor Mitchel, but which in the end served to call out the full extent of his practical powers. The building of the college, from which he drew his only means of support, took fire and burned to the ground. The observatory was without endowment, and he had engaged to be its director for ten years without compensation, relying for support on his college professorship. He determined to enter the field as a professional lecturer on astronomy. With characteristic boldness he proceeded to Boston, believing that if he could succeed in that critical city, where the arts and sciences had been so thoroughly cultivated, and which numbered among its own citizens so many men of high scientific attainment, he could succeed elsewhere. He met with perfect success, and thus commenced that series of brilliant efforts in every city in the United States which lasted for fifteen years.

He published, in 1848, "Planetary and Stellar Worlds"; in 1860, "Popular Astronomy"; he also published, from 1846 to 1848, the "Sidereal Messenger," a periodical; and after his death a fragment, entitled "Astronomy of the Bible," was given to the public. These works, though the progress of science and of thought has left them now far behind, are still read by some who can discern in them the ardent poetic nature of their author. But his great work in science was in exciting an interest, wherever he appeared in person, to talk of the wonders of the heavens. He never attempted to amuse an audience, and never dropped below the dignity of the sublime subject of which he spoke. When flights of eloquence came to him, they seemed to meet him from among the lofty realms to which he ascended. Thither he carried his hearers, not by diagrams, not by