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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

ORMSBY MITCHELL AND THE CINCINNATI OBSERVATORY

Abstract

Ormsby Mitchel was born in Union County, Kentucky in 1810. He was educated at West Point Military Academy, where he taught mathematics for three years after graduating in 1829. After holding several military positions, he became an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1836, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Philosophy, and Professor of Astronomy at Cincinnati College. He became nationally known as an astronomical lecturer and builder of the Cincinnati Observatory, where the third-largest refracting telescope in the world was installed in 1845. He published in 1846 the first monthly astronomy magazine in the United States, the Sidereal Messenger. In 1859, Mitchel accepted the position of astronomer of the Dudley Observatory in Albany, New York. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mitchel was commissioned as brigadier general of volunteers. He commanded a division in the Army of the Ohio from December 1861 to July 1862 and was in charge of the defense of Nashville, Tennessee. He conspired James J. Andrews to steal a train in Georgia to disrupt a railroad vital to the Confederate States. In September 1862, he assumed command of the Department of the South at Hilton Head, South Carolina but died in Beaufort of yellow fever shortly after assuming his post. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. The Cincinnati Observatory was moved in 1873 from its original location on Mt. Adams to a darker sky location about five miles away. In 1904, the Observatory purchased a 16 inch Alvan Clark and Sons refractor and built another building to house the original telescope. In 1979, the Observatory became part of the Physics Department of the University of Cincinnati, where it continues to be used for public education.

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