Thursday, September 21, 2023



An unidentified man poses with the University of Mississippi's 'Great Telescope.'
An unidentified man poses with the University of Mississippi’s ‘Great Telescope.’

Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard was the University of Mississippi’s first Chancellor. In 1856, Barnard, the former Chair of Physics and Astronomy, convinced the legislature to appropriate funds to order the largest telescope in the world for the University and to construct an observatory for it on campus. The Department of Physics and Astronomy occupied Barnard Observatory from its completion in 1859 until 1939. The large telescope that Barnard had dreamed of was ordered from Alvan Clark & Sons in 1857. However, due to the outbreak of the Civil War, the telescope was never delivered to the University. Barnard’s telescope was subsequently purchased by the Chicago Astronomical Society in 1863. After the University had recovered from the Civil War, a fifteen inch telescope was purchased in 1893. A few years later, as astronomy advanced, the instruments became obsolete but were moved to permanent storage to preserve their historic character. They stayed in the physics department attic until 1958, when a group of men in the physics club discovered the objects. They cleaned the instruments and returned them to working order and displayed them in the physics department until 1977, when the instruments were transferred to the University Museum for conservation, exhibition and study.