Washburn Observatory and Observatory Director's Residence - Madison, WI
Posted by: REUAHNESIE
N 43° 04.565 W 089° 24.542
16T E 303882 N 4772080
Quick Description: The Washburn Observatory is located at 1401 Observatory Drive on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. Completed in 1881, it was a major research facility for about 50 years.
Location: Wisconsin, United States
Date Posted: 8/30/2011 7:31:36 PM
Waymark Code: WMCF14
The observatory is named after the former Wisconsin governor, Cadwallader C. Washburn. In 1876, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed "An Act to permanently provide for deficiencies in the University fund income" to which Washburn added a provision that allocated a sum of $3000 USD per year over three years for the establishment of astronomy instruction and a corresponding observatory. This money was not to come from state funds, but was to be raised with property tax.
On September 18, 1877, John Bascom, the president of the University, announced that Washburn would provide an observatory with a telescope that was to be larger than the 15-inch refractor at Harvard. Washburn, along with the Board of Regents, chose the site of the observatory to be removed from the city of Madison with the university campus acting as the divider. The site was about 100 feet above Lake Mendota on the north side of campus and, at the time, was surrounded by a vineyard and orchard. Construction on the observatory was started in May, 1878, and a contract was given to Alvan Clark to build the telescope. It was decided that the telescope would have a diameter of 15.6 inches, which would make it the third largest in the United States. James C. Watson was appointed the first director of the observatory. He oversaw the completion of the original building, and also provided funding for a students' observatory, as well as a solar observatory. He died suddenly in 1880, never seeing the completed observatory.
The observatory was used quite heavily until the new Pine Bluff Observatory was dedicated in 1958. Today Washburn Observatory is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Letters & Science Honors Program. The telescope, managed by the UW Department of Astronomy, is still used for public viewings and educational events.
The Washburn Observatory is open to the public. Check website for schedule: (visit link