One of the "Birthplaces of American Astronomy" is the title that history has bestowed upon the Cincinnati Observatory. Housing one of the oldest working telescopes in the world, it is one of the first public observatory in the western hemisphere.
The main telescopes are an 1845 11-inch Merz and Mahler refractor and a 1904 16-inch Alvan Clark and Sons refractor. These refractors bend light allowing parallel light rays to converge at a focal point.
In 1842, Cincinnati College professor of astronomy, Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, raised nearly $7,500 for a proper telescope and an observatory building, while establishing the Cincinnati Astronomical Society. Mitchel found a beautifully crafted unused 11-inch lens in Munich. He then commissioned a tube of brass and mahogany to house it.
Mitchel personally oversaw the construction of the observatory, which was built on land donated to the Astronomical Society by Nicholas Longworth, a future Speaker of the US House of Representative among other political accomplishments.
In November of 1843, John Quincy Adams, at 77 years of age, dedicated the observatory as "The Lighthouse of the Sky". Shortly thereafter, the ailing former president passed away and the area was renamed Mt. Adams, in his honor.
In 1859, Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel accepted the position of astronomer in Albany, New York. And in 1871, the Cincinnati Observatory was transferred from the Astronomical Society to the University of Cincinnati.
The telescopes were relocated, in 1873, to where they sit today, on Mount Lookout, due to the excessive smoke and dust from steamboats, trains and the pork processing buildings in downtown Cincinnati.
In 1947, The Minor Planet Center, the official worldwide organization in charge of collecting observational data, calculating orbits and publishing the information, was created under the direction of Paul Herge at the Cincinnati Observatory.
In 1978, upon Herge's retirement, the University of Cincinnati's Physics Department assumed operation of the observatory, and The Minor Planet Center moved to the Smithsoinan in Washington.
In 1999, the Cincinnati Observatory Center was created, as an educational hub and celebrates 19th Century astronomy and science.