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Title: Heyden Observatory

Untitled Document The Heyden Observatory has been used as a biology lab since the early 1970's.   The Laboratory of Entomology and Biodiversity (which produces this website) is currently in this historic building.

The Georgetown University Observatory

Georgetown University Observatory as shown in the Georgetown College Catalogue of 1877-1878.

Father James Curley of the Physics Department at Georgetown College founded the Georgetown Observatory in 1841.   He chose a site on the College grounds, planned the building and supervised its construction.   Overcoming numerous difficulties and delays, he saw the building finished by 1843.

During the 45 years of Father Curley's Directorship, he kept consistent weather reports.   With the cooperation of Sir George Airy, The Astronomer Royal, he determined the exact longitude and latitude of many of the principal buildings in Washington.   His determination of the location of Georgetown was so accurate that no correction has been necessary to this very day.   In 1888, Father John Hagen, S.J., became director.   He was responsible for the installation of the 12-inch equatorial telescope with which for twenty years he observed and gathered data on variable stars.   This instrument is still in continuous use.   It was Father Hagen who gained for the observatory world-wide recognition in the field of astronomical research.

In 1928, Father Paul A. McNally, S.J. began his term as director.   Under his direction the research efforts at Georgetown were focused on solar eclipses.   A series of field expeditions began at this time.   These were highly successful and contributed significantly to the observatory's growing reputation.

Father Francis J. Heyden, S.J., came to Georgetown in 1945 from the Manila Observatory, and in 1948 assumed directorship of the Observatory here.   From that time until the closing of the Astronomy Department in 1971, the fame of the Observatory increased dramatically.   The eclipse expeditions were continued with great success, and research in solar and planetary spectroscopy was begun.   A graduate program was instituted, growing eventually to be the largest such department in this country.

Despite the closing of the Department, interest in astronomy continued to make itself felt.   In 1972, under the sponsorship of Dr. James Lambert of the Physics Department, the Georgetown University Astronomical Society was founded.   Under the leadership of Patrick Seitzer and Daniel Fliesch, renovation of the Observatory was begun and the major instruments brought back into active use.

The Society runs programs of astronomical interest throughout the academic year, including public and private tours and observing sessions in the Observatory, lectures, films and field trips in the Washington area.   Since the observatory was designated a historical landmark in 1973, the Society has begun attempting to restore the buildings and grounds to a condition befitting a national monument to science.  

This information is from the GU Astronomy Club webpage.  

To view some pictures of the telescope follow this link.

To contact the Club or look at its webpage, follow this link.


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