and deadly earnestness that would have been brought to
Baldwin died in 1785, and was succeeded by Francis Andrews, a Fellow of seventeen years' standing. As to the scholastic acquirements of Andrews, all I can find is a statement that he was complimented by the polite Professors of Padua on the elegance and purity with which he discoursed to them in Latin. Andrews was also reputed to be a skilful lawyer. He was certainly a Privy Councillor and a prominent member of the Irish House of Commons, and his social qualities were excellent. Perhaps it was Baldwin's example that stimulated a desire in Andrews to become a benefactor to his college. He accordingly bequeathed a sum of 3,000 pounds and an annual income of 250 pounds wherewith to build and endow an astronomical Observatory in the University. The figures just stated ought to be qualified by the words of cautious Ussher (afterwards the first Professor of Astronomy), that "this money was to arise from an accumulation of a part of his property, to commence upon a particular contingency happening to his family." The astronomical endowment was soon in jeopardy by litigation. Andrews thought he had provided for his relations by leaving to them certain leasehold interests connected with the Provost's estate. The law courts, however, held that these interests were not at the disposal of the testator, and handed them over to Hely Hutchinson, the next Provost. The disappointed relations then petitioned the Irish Parliament to redress this grievance by transferring to them the moneys designed by Andrews for the Observatory. It would not be right, they contended, that the kindly intentions of the late Provost towards his kindred should be frustrated for the sake of maintaining what they described as "a purely ornamental institution." The authorities of the College protested against this claim. Counsel were heard, and a Committee of the House made a report declaring the situation of the relations to be a hard one. Accordingly, a compromise was made, and the dispute terminated.
The selection of a site for the new astronomical Observatory was made by the Board of Trinity College. The beautiful neighbourhood of Dublin offered a choice of excellent localities. On the north side of the Liffey an Observatory could have been admirably placed, either on the remarkable promontory of Howth or on the elevation of which Dunsink is the summit. On the south side of Dublin there are several eminences that would have been suitable: the breezy heaths at Foxrock combine all necessary conditions; the obelisk hill at Killiney would have given one of the most picturesque sites for an Observatory in the world; while near Delgany two or three other good situations could be mentioned. But the Board of those pre-railway days was naturally guided by the question of proximity. Dunsink was accordingly chosen as the most suitable site within the distance of a reasonable walk from Trinity College.
The northern boundary of the Phoenix Park approaches the little river Tolka, which winds through a succession of delightful bits of sylvan scenery, such as may be found in the wide demesne of Abbotstown and the classic shades of Glasnevin. From the banks of the Tolka, on the opposite side of the park, the pastures ascend in a gentle slope to culminate at Dunsink, where at a distance of half a mile from the stream, of four miles from Dublin, and at a height of 300 feet above the sea, now stands the Observatory. From the commanding position of Dunsink a magnificent view is obtained. To the east the sea is visible, while the southern prospect over the valley of the Liffey is bounded by a range of hills and mountains extending from Killiney to Bray Head, thence to the little Sugar Loaf, the Two Rock and the Three Rock Mountains, over the flank of which the summit of the Great Sugar Loaf is just perceptible. Directly in front opens the fine valley of Glenasmole, with Kippure Mountain, while the range can be followed to its western extremity at Lyons. The climate of Dunsink is well suited for astronomical observation. No doubt here, as elsewhere in Ireland, clouds are abundant, but mists or haze are comparatively unusual, and fogs are almost unknown.
The legal formalities to be observed in assuming occupation exacted a delay of many months; accordingly, it was not until the 10th December, 1782, that a contract could be made with Mr. Graham Moyers for the erection of a meridian-room and a dome for an equatorial, in conjunction with a becoming residence for the astronomer. Before the work was commenced at Dunsink, the Board thought it expedient to appoint the first Professor of Astronomy. They met for this purpose on the 22nd January, 1783, and chose the Rev. Henry Ussher, a Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. The wisdom of the appointment was immediately shown by the assiduity with which Ussher engaged in founding the observatory. In three years he had erected the buildings and equipped them with instruments, several of which were of his own invention. On the 19th of February, 1785, a special grant of 200 pounds was made by the Board to Dr. Ussher as some recompense for his labours. It happened that the observatory was not the only scientific institution which came into being in Ireland at this period; the newly-kindled ardour for the pursuit of knowledge led, at the same time, to the foundation of the Royal Irish Academy. By a fitting coincidence, the first memoir published in the "Transactions Of The Royal Irish Academy," was by the first Andrews, Professor of Astronomy. It was read on the 13th of June, 1785, and bore the title, "Account of the Observatory belonging to Trinity College," by the Rev. H. Ussher, D.D., M.R.I.A., F.R.S. This communication shows the extensive design that had been originally intended for Dunsink, only a part of which was, however, carried out. For instance, two long corridors, running north and south from the central edifice, which are figured in the paper, never developed into bricks and mortar. We are not told why the original scheme had to be contracted; but perhaps the reason may be not unconnected with a remark of Ussher's, that the College had already advanced from its own funds a sum considerably exceeding the original bequest. The picture of the building shows also the dome for the South equatorial, which was erected many years later.
Ussher died in 1790. During his brief career at the observatory, he observed eclipses, and is stated to have done other scientific work. The minutes of the Board declare that the infant institution had already obtained celebrity by his labours, and they urge the claims of his widow to a pension, on the ground that the disease from which he died had been contracted by his nightly vigils. The Board also promised a grant of fifty guineas as a help to bring out Dr. Ussher's sermons. They advanced twenty guineas to his widow towards the publication of his astronomical papers. They ordered his bust to be executed for the observatory, and offered "The Death of Ussher" as the subject of a prize essay; but, so far as I can find, neither the sermons nor the papers, neither the bust nor the prize essay, ever came into being.
There was keen competition for the chair of Astronomy which the death of Ussher vacated. The two candidates were Rev. John Brinkley, of Caius College, Cambridge, a Senior Wrangler (born at Woodbridge, Suffolk, in 1763), and Mr. Stack, Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and author of a book on Optics. A majority of the Board at first supported Stack, while Provost Hely Hutchinson and one or two others supported Brinkley. In those days the Provost had a veto at elections, so that ultimately Stack was withdrawn and Brinkley was elected. This took place on the 11th December, 1790. The national press of the day commented on the preference shown to the young Englishman, Brinkley, over his Irish rival. An animated controversy ensued. The Provost himself condescended to enter the lists and to vindicate his policy by a long letter in the "Public Register" or "Freeman's Journal," of 21st December, 1790. This letter was anonymous, but its authorship is obvious. It gives the correspondence with Maskelyne and other eminent astronomers, whose advice and guidance had been sought by the Provost. It also contends that "the transactions of the Board ought not to be canvassed in the newspapers." For this reference, as well as for much other information, I am indebted to my friend, the Rev. John Stubbs, D.D.
[PLATE: THE OBSERVATORY, DUNSINK. From a Photograph by W. Lawrence, Upper Sackville Street, Dublin.]
The next event in the history of the Observatory was the issue of Letters Patent (32 Geo. III., A.D 1792), in which it is recited that "We grant and ordain that there shall be forever hereafter a Professor of Astronomy, on the foundation of Dr. Andrews, to be called and known by the name of the Royal Astronomer of Ireland." The letters prescribe the various duties of the astronomer and the mode of his election. They lay down regulations as to the conduct of the astronomical work, and as to the choice of an assistant. They direct that the Provost and the Senior Fellows shall make a thorough inspection of the observatory once every year in June or July; and this duty was first undertaken on the 5th of July, 1792. It may be noted that the date on which the celebration of the tercentenary of the University was held happens to coincide with the centenary of the first visitation of the observatory. The visitors on the first occasion were A. Murray, Matthew Young, George Hall, and John Barrett. They record that they find the buildings, books and instruments in good condition; but the chief feature in this report, as well as in many which followed it, related to a circumstance to which we have not yet referred.
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