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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/421

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SKETCH OF CLEVELAND ABBE.

which I had felt obliged to abandon—yet it grouped together so much practical information, and was so suggestive of new lines of thinking, that it really marked a new era in the history." Professor Abbe presented another very important report to the Metrological Society at the December meeting of 1880. President Barnard was appointed to draw up a circular upon the subject, and send it out to all who might have an interest in the matter; and with the help of Mr. Allen, of the Railway Time Convention, the plan of hourly-standards, which is now in use, was prepared, and the co-operation of nearly all the important railroads secured for its successful introduction.

As the delegate of the United States to the International Meridian and Time Conference, which met at Washington in October, 1884, Professor Abbe presented an argument which had considerable weight in deciding the questions at issue, although it was only circulated in proof-sheets among the members, and was withheld from publication because if it became official it would necessitate a long reply from the French delegates, and prolong a discussion that was likely to be unnecessarily tedious. In this paper he offered as a solution of the question of the real neutrality of the prime meridian, which the French delegates insisted upon, the proposition that "the prime meridian shall be defined by references as exact as may be practicable to all the national astronomical observatories of the twenty-five nations represented in this conference; the grounds belonging to these observatories shall be declared neutral territory, and the astronomers in charge shall be respected in all international matters; the precise choice of the prime meridian shall be based on the principle of doing the least possible violence to the existing customs of the world consistent with the attainment of the greatest possible good; that when adopted this meridian shall receive no national designation obnoxious to any people, but the whole system shall be known as the International Prime Meridian, International Longitude, International Time."

Professor Abbe led the party which went out from the Cincinnati Observatory to observe the total eclipse of August 7, 1869. The company traveled in wagons from Sioux City to the line of totality near Sioux Falls. His own attention was devoted to the observation, under high power and in a small field of view, of three conical protuberances of peculiar character, and he missed the coronal streamers which were observed by the others with the naked eye and with opera-glasses; and he doubted whether the latter were not individual and subjective phenomena, or originating in the earth's atmosphere.

At the eclipse of August, 1878, he selected a station on the summit of Pike's Peak, but was taken ill there, and had to be removed to the Lake House (elevation ten thousand feet). Having recovered to a sufficient extent, he was laid upon the ground during the eclipse and devoted himself wholly to the study of the rays that extended above the brilliant ring which was presumed to represent the true solar at-