Stargazing: 150 Years of Astronomy at the University of Michigan


This exhibit was designed and executed as a companion piece to a physical exhibit of the same topic.

Professor Hazel Marie Losh in the Observer's Chair at the University Observatory

Professor Hazel Marie Losh on the Observer's Chair at the University
Observatory. Hazel Marie Losh Papers, Box 2, Folder: "Photographs-Personal-Adult"

While the physical and online exhibits differ slightly in content, the goal of both exhibits is to provide contextual history for the Detroit Observatory, offer an overview of astronomy instruction at the University of Michigan, as well as highlight notable or exceptional faculty members. It also aims to share an awareness with the viewer of the ways in which astronomical instruction and observations have evolved over time.

This exhibit was arranged in six sections:

Astronomy Instruction covers the tools and techniques used to educate a new generation of astronomers, and addresses the specific contributions of key faculty members. The goal of the Astronomy Department was to produce Michigan-educated astronomers and this exhibit section will address how the department went about the business of "raising up native astronomers."


The front of a planisphere. Designed by
Michael H. Harrington, Director of the
University Observatory, around 1890. It
is a star chart that can be adjusted to
display the visible stars for any time and
date between 1891 and 1901.
Observatory Papers, Box 7, Folder:

Astronomy Department History will examine the development of the astronomy department from its earliest days until more recently. One focal point of this exhibit section is the partnerships in which the University of Michigan astronomy department participates.

Faculty Profiles highlight the careers and biographies of particularly notable faculty members, educators and researchers that left an indelible mark on the study of astronomy here in Ann Arbor. This section is by no means comprehensive and an omission does not indicate that a faculty member is unworthy of mention. Rather, the individuals whose profiles are included here were involved in the founding of the department, or conducted extensive research projects, or lived a remarkably unusual life, or were exceptional educators.

Observatory Origins and History details the reasons that University President Tappan was so tirelessly dedicated to constructing an observatory in Ann Arbor. This exhibit section also addresses the disadvantages of climate and discusses the history of the observatory's location.

Expeditions describe the many observing expeditions that University of Michigan astronomy faculty made during their tenure. Most expeditions are fairly well-documented with photographs, and we have included a sampling of expedition photographs. Michigan astronomy faculty ranged as far as South Africa, Sumatra, and Egypt, and as near as Canada, Maine, and Nevada. Expeditions were frequently summer endeavors, as it could take several weeks to ready camp and equipment for a party of astronomers.

Finally, Resources for Further Research provides researchers with additional manuscript collections and secondary materials with which to continue research about the University of Michigan Astronomy Department and the Detroit Observatory. Where available, a link to the location of the electronic finding aid is provided.

Please enjoy your visit to Stargazing: 150 Years of Astronomy at the University of Michigan.

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This exhibit was created in February 2009 by Bentley Library graduate assistants Dominique Daniel, Rachael Dreyer, and Shannon Wait, University of Michigan School of Information.