The Winchester Observatory
observatories were the centers of research for modern astronomy in
North America in the 19th century, but by the late 1800s many were
faced with both economic and practical setbacks. Constructed in 1880,
Yale College's first purpose-built observatory, also known as the
Winchester Observatory, was no exception.
The Yale Observatory's economic difficulties came on the eve of the highly anticipated 1882 transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event that would allow astronomers to measure the distance from Earth to the Sun. The observatory had obtained enough private donations to buy a new telescope and heliometer (an apparatus used to measure the diameter of the Sun) with which to observe the transit, but still lacked minimal operating funds.
Photograph courtesy of Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library.