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Georgetown University Observatory

This guide highlights primary and secondary sources available in the Georgetown University Archives for research on the Observatory

Timeline of Significant Dates in the History of the Observatory

Engraving of the Observatory from 1851

1796: Father James Curley, S.J. is born in Ireland on October 25

1825: Father Curley comes to Georgetown as professor of natural philosophy

1835, January 1: Father Curley begins keeping a daily weather record. He stops on March 1, 1888, one month before his death

1841: Father Curley founds the Observatory

1843: Building is completed

1844: First instruments arrive from Ertel and Son of Munich

1848: Italian astronomers Father Benedict Sestini, S.J. and Angelo Secchi, S.J. arrive at Georgetown

1850: Father Sestini makes a series of sunspot drawings between September 20 and November 6

1852: First Anals of the Observatory, a quarto volume of 250 pages containing a description of the Observatory is published

1854: Father Curley becomes a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

1859: Stone pier erected for the equatorial telescope

1886: Father S. H. Fresebie, S.J. is appointed director

1888: Father John Hagen, S.J. is appointed director

1889, July 24: Father Curley dies

1890: Father George A. Fargis, S.J. is appointed as assistant to the Director

1893, March: New twelve-inch equatorial telescope installed

1889: First photographs taken with the equatorial telescope

1914: Father P. Archer, S.J. is appointed director

1923: Father J.L. Gipprich, S.J. is appointed director

1925: Father Edward C. Phillips, S.J. is appointed director

1928: Father Paul A. McNally, S.J. becomes director

1930: New photographic telescope is ordered from Fecker Co. of Pittsburg

1932: Father McNally leads the Observatory's first scientific expedition to Fryeburg, Maine to study a total solar eclipse

1936: Father McNally direct a team of astronomers who travel to Orenburg, Russia to study a total solar eclipse

1937: Father McNally travels to Canton Island in the South Pacific as a member of the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Navy eclipse expedition

1940: Father McNally travels to Patos, Brazil as a member of the National Geographic Society-National Bureau of Standards eclipse expedition

1948: Father Francis J. Heyden, S.J. becomes director

1952: Father Heyden travels to Sudan to study a total solar eclipse

1954: Team of Georgetown astronomers travels to Iran to study a total solar eclipse

1971: Georgetown’s Astronomy Department closes

1972: Georgetown University Astronomical Society is founded

1973: Observatory building is designated as an historic landmark

1987, November 6:  Observatory and gardens are dedicated to Fr. Francis J. Heyden

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