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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.


This page shows a list of all images related pictures in the same group.

[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.

One related image not shown

[link]1849 William Cranch Bond portrait

Image Credit: Cephas Thompson

Earliest source: "William Cranch Bond (1789-1859)." Harvard Portrait/Clock Collections. Harvard Libraries, HUAM311225

Creator: Thompson, Cephas Giovanni (1809-1888), American

Signature: signed on verso: Cephas G. Thompson 1849
Credit Line: Harvard University Portrait Collection, acquired before 1877

I assume this is just a different (more blurry) photo of the same painting by Cephas Thompson as the other image I have, but the quality is different enough that I can't be completely sure that these are not two different copies of the same painting (by the same artist). While the resolution is a little lower, this photo includes more of the edges of the painting.

This painting currently hangs in the main lobby of the Observatory, along with paintings of most of the other directors..

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