Timeline

YEAR

EVENTS

Prior Years The two largest telescopes in the world were 15-inch telescopes at Harvard and the Pulkova Observatory in Russia. Francis Barnard, president of the University of Mississippi, hired Alvin Clark, a lensmaker from Cambridge, MA, to make an 18.5 inch lens. The blanks were cast by Chance & Compand of Birmingham, England.
1861 When the Civil War broke out, the agreement with the University of Mississippi failed and the lens was idle.
1862 While testing the new lens, the white dwarf companion of the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, was discovered and named Sirius B. It was the first compact stellar remnant ever discovered. At this time, M. R. Foret persuaded theChicago Astronomical Society and the University of Chicago to build an observatory.
1863 Hayne purchased Mr. Clark's lens for the Chicago Astronomical Society and the U. of Chicago. He put down $1500; the total price was $18,187. Construction of the observatory building was started, paid for by J. Y. Scammon, who named it for his deceased wife, Mary Ann Haven Dearborn. Mrs. Dearborn was a relative of Henry Dearborn, after whom Fort Dearborn was named.
1864 The lens arrived at the new observatory, located at 3400 South Cottage Grove in Chicago.
1865 The observatory was completed.
1866 The first observations were made.
1867 The Chicago Astronomical Society became a corporation. W. W. Gurneedonated money for a 40 inch diameter meridian circle employing a 6 inch telescope that became operational in 1868. Truman H. Safford became the first director. He discoverd 108 nebulae.
1871 The great Chicago fire broke out in October. The Chicago Astronomical Society did not meet for 2 1/2 years. Elias Colbert succeeded to the directorship of the observatory.
1874 The Society reconvened and raised $5,000 for renovations of the dome by selling life memberships.
1875 The dome was completed. The observatory provided time signals (one of the most useful services astronomers provided and contributions toAstronomische Gessellschaft
1876 S. W. Burnham, a talented amateur astronomer and double star observer, became the acting director, without pay.
1879 George Washington "Jupiter" Hough became the director of the observatory. He designed many meteorological instruments and discovered more than 250 double stars while at Dearborn. He also studied Jupiter extensively.
1886 The original U. of Chicago became bankrupt. The telescope was determined to be the property of the Chicago Astronomical Society, which was instructed to remove it.
1887 The Dearborn telescope was moved to Northwestern University. J. B. Hobbs donated the new home at a cost of $25,000.
1889 The new Dearborn Observatory was dedicated.
1909 Professor Hough died. Malcolm McNeill became the temporary director, followed by Phillip Fox. 102 double stars were discovered with the observatory.
1910 The original telescope mounting was removed and replaced.
1915 Phillip Fox published The Annals of the Dearborn Observatory.
1920 Fox resigned and was replaced by Oliver Justin Lee. Lee continued the previous work of Fox which dealt with the proper motion and parallaxes of stars used in the study of galactic structure and rotation. Lee initiated a study of faint red stars.
1930 A wide-field camera with an objective prism was added to reveal the spectrum of each star in the field at the same time. This instrument was used for stellar spectral classification.
1931 Dearborn photographed the asteroid Eros, which contributed to improved accuracy of distances in the solar system.
1933 Dearborn participated in a combined effort to measure the continental drift.
1939 Dearborn moved... without waiting for the continents. By cutting it off at ground level, the observatory was moved 664 feet southeast of its original site to make room for the new Technological Institute building. Twenty-six men using jacks moved it for three months at a top speed of 20 inches per minute. It was in motion for a total of seven hours. THe building weighs approximately 2,500 tons and the weight of the telescope pier is 125 tons.
1947 Director Lee resigned and was succeeded by Kaj Strand.
1957 The meridian circle was removed and replaced by Northwestern's first computer, an IBM 650.
1958 Strand resigned. The following year there was no director and no astronomy department.
1959 Karl Henize was named acting director.
1960 J. A. Hynek became department chair and observatory director.
1961 Dedication in New Mexico of Corralitos Observatory, Northwestern's remote satellite observatory. The electronic instruments were designed and tested in Dearborn.
1967 Installation of the image Orthicon system. The $1.1 million B. F. Lindheimer Memorial Astronomical Research Observatory, with a 16-inch and 40-inch reflector, was located on Northwestern's lakefront.
1975 Prof. J. D. Bahng was named director of the Dearborn Observatory.
1977 The second floor of Dearborn Observatory was remodeled for the Integrated Science Program.
1982 Prof. Mel Ulmer becomes the new director of the Observatory.
1985 A $1.6 million grant is awarded to Northwestern for participation in NASA's Gamma Ray Observatory, launched in 1988.
1995 The Lindheimer Observatory was torn down when it was determined that the cost of necessary building repairs was prohibitive. The Lindheimer telescopes were donated to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.
1996 At Lowell Observatory, the John Vickers McAllister Observatory was dedicated, the new home of the Lindheimer 16-inch reflector. The telescope is now used primarily for public observing.
1997 The rotating dome in the Dearborn Observatory was replaced with a new Observa-Dome. The telescope was removed in preparation for the dome replacement.
1998 The entire dome was beautifully refurbished. DFM Engineering re-installed the telescope with a new computer-controlled pointing system. Regular observing sessions began for NU astronomy classes.
1999

Public Observing sessions resumed in the newly remodeled observatory.

2004

Prof. David Meyer takes over as the observatory director.

2016

Prof. Michael Smutko succeeds Prof. Meyer as director of the Dearborn Observatory.