Feb
18

Today in Smithsonian History: February 18, 1848

The largest telescope of the 19th century, the Leviathan of Parsonstown. (Photographer unknown, prior to 1914 PD-US)

The largest telescope of the 19th century, the Leviathan of Parsonstown. (Photographer unknown, prior to 1914 PD-US)

February 18, 1848 William Scoresby, an Anglican minister, scientist and Arctic explorer, begins a series of lectures at the Odd Fellows Hall in Washington, D.C. on the construction and use of the Rosse telescope. These are the first scientific talks given under the auspices of the fledgling Smithsonian Institution. Scoresby’s An Account of the Arctic Regions, with a History and Description of the Northern Whale-Fishery, published in 1820, ushered in the modern age of polar science.

Jan Mayen Island, north of Greenland, with Beerenberg Mountain in the background, from William Scoresby, Jr., "An Account of the Arctic Regions, 1820."

Jan Mayen Island, north of Greenland, with Beerenberg Mountain in the background, from William Scoresby, Jr., “An Account of the Arctic Regions, 1820.”

Astronomer William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse  (1800 – 1867) was an Anglo-Irish astronomer whose  72-inch telescope “Leviathan of Parsontown,” built in 1845 on his estate, Birr Castle, at Parsonstown (now Birr in County Offaly, Ireland) was the world’s largest telescope until the construction of the 100-inch (2.5 m) Hooker Telescope in 1917.

conveyance of the great speculum for the 6-foot "Leviathan" telescope. In the background are a three-foot telescope and Birr Castle.

In this 1845 painting by Henrietta Crompton, William, 3rd Earl of Rosse directs the conveyance of the great speculum for the 6-foot “Leviathan” telescope. In the background are a three-foot telescope and Birr Castle.


Posted: 18 February 2018
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