Ohio State University – McMillin Observatory

Lost to us

Emerson McMillin Observatory
The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

Image: Ohio State University Observatory - Postcard Ca. 1910
Ohio State University Observatory – Postcard ca. 1910

“OSU’s first astronomical observatory was the result of a monetary gift for a telescope and astronomical equipment from Emerson McMillin, New York banker and utility executive. The building, formally named Emerson McMillin Observatory, was constructed on top of a small hill overlooking Mirror Lake, and it was opened on June 16, 1896. The observatory was equipped with a 12 ½ inch (a lens 12 1/2 inches in diameter) refracting telescope and contained a small laboratory and planetarium. The Observatory was known as one of the finest in the state at the time of its construction. During its early years, the observatory was well known for studies conducted there of stars and asteroids.

Ohio State University Observatory ca. 1906

Research work and classes in astronomy were held in the observatory until the 1950s, when it was replaced by Perkins Observatory, in Delaware, Ohio, which contained a much larger telescope. Classes, however, continued to be held in the observatory until 1962, when the dome shutters were declared unsafe to open. The building was closed in 1968 when the new astronomy facilities became available in Smith Laboratory. The building remained a campus landmark, although it was slated for demolition on several occasions, the first being in 1963. The Observatory was finally razed in 1976.” — The Ohio State University Archives

For a fuller history of McMillin Observatory — click here.

The telescope, idle since 1962, was donated to the Kaubisch Memorial Library, Fostoria. The instrument was to be used as part of the library’s public education program. The Warner & Sawsey scope later became the centerpiece of the Ballreich Observatory. Read more about it and see the telescope in modern times by clicking here.

The Emerson McMillin Observatory's 12.5-Inch Telescope. Image Courtesy of the Ohio State University Archives.
The Emerson McMillin Observatory’s 12.5-Inch Telescope. Image Courtesy of the Ohio State University Archives.

We will add images and documentation here as we acquire them.