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Harvard College Observatory History in Images

This is a personal project collecting and documenting early images of Harvard College Observatory, focusing on the site at Observatory Hill (previously Summer House Hill). Buildings, instruments, people, and observations.

Disclaimer: all content here is solely my own views, and in no way represents the views of my employer, or anyone else. Also, I'm documenting things as I learn about them, so expect frequent errors. Corrections will occur without notice and without a changelog at this point.

William Cranch Bond

This page shows a list of all images tagged with "William Cranch Bond".

[link]1849 William Cranch Bond portrait

Image Credit: Cephas Thompson

Earliest source: "William Cranch Bond." Time and Navigation / The untold story of getting from here to there.. Smithsonian Institution, 19 [retrieved] August 2015.sibond

This is the earliest depiction I have of William Cranch Bond. Bond was a famous clockmaker, by virtue of being the son of a famous clockmaker. He was also keenly interested in astronomy from an early age. As a child, he used a telescope to observe a solar eclipse, apparently without supervision, and damaged his eyesight for a number of years.bondmemorials. His fascination with astronomy was such that in 1815, John Farrar, then the Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, asked him to visit observatories in Europe and report back. Apparently Bond's descriptions sounded too expensive, and no Observatory was built at tha time.heavensalarm

Evenutally though, the Observatory was created, and Harvard "hired" him as the first director of their new Observatory. Hiring did not involve any salary, but it did involve him transferring all of his own personal astronomical equipment to Harvard property. Not a bad deal for Harvard.

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[link]1855ish William Cranch Bond photograph

Earliest source: William Cranch Bond and George PHillips Bond [and Joseph Winlock]. Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College / 1859-1860 vol. 7. Welch, Bigelow, & Co., 1872.annals7

A photo of William Cranch Bond. Bond died in 1859, while negative photography was still relatively new, but a negative of him must have existed in order to print this image, which is taken from the 1872 Annals.annals7 I'm unsure of the printing technology used here. At first I assumed it was a photolithograph, however no halftone screen is visible (although it could be a gravure method). This could also be a photo pasted into each copy, probably an albumen print, although I don't see all the edges if it's pasted - which could be a scan quality issue.

This is only the second image of him I'm aware of, the first being the painting above. All other images I've seeen are versions of one of these two original sources. The 1855 date given here is a fairly wild guess of when the photograph that it was based on was taken.

It's a fairly early example of a printed photograph, but not crazy early. Photographs in print didn't really become common until 1880s or especially 1890s, but photographs had been in print experimentally since about 1835, and to a limited degree in professional publishing since the early 1850s.

Crazy hair, right? I think some of the images derived from this original take a little artistic license, and make it even a bit more wild. I haven't had time to research his hair, but it's definitely an avenue of exploration. Was this fashionable? Unfashionable? Mad-scientist? Did people mention his hair in the published memorials of him? So many important questions remain.

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