Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/332

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Many other isolated suggestions and proposals for an observatory might be mentioned.

There were four general movements for a national observatory. Each of these extended over a considerable period of time, and each was originated and chiefly promoted by a single man—by F. R. Hassler, William Lambert, John Quincy Adams and James M. Gilliss. The Hassler movement is connected with the founding of the Coast Survey, and the Lambert movement with the establishment in the United States of a first meridian. The movement of Adams formed a part of his plan for the promotion by the federal government of science, learning and public improvements. The undertakings of Gilliss on behalf of an observatory grew out of his actual experience as an astronomical observer in a little building on Capitol Hill in Washington. Each of these movements will be briefly considered.

In 1807 President Jefferson obtained a law providing for the survey of the coasts of the United States. This was the initial legislation in the establishment of the United States Coast Survey. F. R. Hassler was selected by Jefferson and his secretary of the treasury, Albert Gallatin, to undertake the preliminary work. Hassler was a Swiss refugee, and at one time was connected with a trigonometrical survey of his native land. In 1807 he was appointed a professor of mathematics at the Military Academy at West Point. He was one of the most distinguished of the early mathematicians and surveyors of the United States. Between 1807 and 1816, Hassler gave much attention to the preliminaries for the survey of the coast. He drew up a plan of operations. This provided for two astronomical observatories. They were to form the fixed points to which the survey was to be referred. They were to be used in determining time and longitude. Hassler, however, had in mind not merely the needs of the Coast Survey, but the advancement of scientific knowledge as well. The two observatories, he said, "will be permanent scientific establishments." He wished to locate one of them in Maine, and the other in lower Louisiana—that is, as far apart as possible. "Still, various considerations might occasion and favor the desire of placing one of these observatories in the city of Washington, as observatories are placed in the principal capitals of Europe, as a national object, a scientific ornament and a means of nourishing an interest for science in general." Here should be deposited the standards of weights and measures, and the chronometers and library of the Coast Survey. Hassler drew up a plan for the construction of an observatory at Washington, and he chose a location for it, "a part of the hill north of the Capitol."

From August, 1811, until October, 1815, Hassler was in England and on the continent, where he was sent to procure the necessary apparatus for the survey of the coast. The war of 1812 retarded and