University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

Astronomical Observatory

Father Joseph Carrier was in France during 1866. Napoleon III, considering well how Notre Dame might be an outpost of French culture and power, presented Father Carrier with a fine telescope, over seven feet long, with a six inch aperture. The South Bend papers said it was worth 25,000 francs. An observatory was erected in the garden before the college building. The telescope was mounted on a portable stand under a revolving roof eighteen feet in diameter.

In 1870 another telescope was procured from Solomons in Dublin. It was a smaller instrument, a little over four feet long, and mounted on a tripod. It was kept in the University Parlor. Professor Arthur J. Stace introduced the young men to astronomy. Not a little of their time, if we are to judge from the numerous photographs, was spent in posing alongside the telescope. Such photographs were very welcome to the parents back home.

-- Notre Dame -- One Hundred Years / by Arthur J. Hope, C.S.C.

[On September 22, 1877,] the heavens being propitious, an unusual cavalcade halted at the college gates. In a four-horse carry-all fifteen or twenty ladies, members of a South Bend "literary club," had come to peer through the telescope. With much swishing of skirts, and cacaphony of soprano voices, they alighted and were decorously conducted to the observatory by Professor Howard. The professor "operated the instrument and replied with instructive clarity and commendable patience to the numerous questions that were showered upon him." We are told that the mysteries of the heavens were so fascinating, and the night so beautiful that many of the ladies were loath to leave.

-- Notre Dame -- One Hundred Years / by Arthur J. Hope, C.S.C.
based on Notre Dame Scholastic, Volume XI (1877-78), page 75.