Friday, February 18, 2011


I was so very happy to pass by my favorite building on campus today and see that it was being restored.   I've worried about it for years: it looks to be peeling and crumbling, and judging by the junk that's being pulled off the back roof, these repairs don't come a moment too soon.   This Observatory was built in 1865, costing - together with the equipment in it - around $6K, and supposedly it's a masterpiece of Romantic Neoclassicism, modelled on the Tower of the Winds in Athens.   Inside it was "a six and one-half inch equatorial refracting telescope, a meridian circle with four-inch object glass for transit observations, a sidereal clock and a mean solar clock.  There was a chronograph, repeating circle, and other instruments, and the Observatory was in telegraphic connection with other observatories" (Allen B. Robbins, A Brief History of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers, chapter 4).   I doubt that these are still inside it ... but I certainly would like to see inside, somehow - it's never been remotely open when I've been near it.

Tower of the Winds or not, it did strike me today that in fact, as befits this campus's heritage, it looks remarkably like a squat Dutch windmill, minus the sails.

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