Biography of Percival Lowell

By A. Lawrence Lowell | Go to book overview

APPENDIX II
THE LOWELL OBSERVATORY

by Professor Henry Norris Russell

THE Observatory at Flagstaff is Percival Lowell's creation. The material support which he gave it, both during his lifetime and by endowment, represents but a small part of his connection with it. He chose the site, which in its combination of excellent observing conditions and the amenities of everyday life, is still unsurpassed. He selected the permanent members of the staff and provided for the successor to the Directorship after his death. Last, but not least, he inspired a tradition of intense interest in the problems of the universe, and independent and original thought in attacking them, which survives unimpaired.

On a numerical basis--whether in number of staff, size of instruments, or annual budget--the Lowell Observatory takes a fairly modest rank in comparison with some great American foundations. But throughout its history it has produced a long and brilliant series of important discoveries and observations notable especially for originality of conception and technical skill. Percival Lowell's own work has been fully described; it remains to summarize briefly that of the men whom he chose as his colleagues, presenting it according to its subject, rather than in chronological order.

The photography of the planets has been pursued for thirty years, mainly by the assiduous work of E. C. Slipher, and the resulting collections are unrivalled. Only a small amount of this store has been published or described in print, but among its successes may be noted the first photographs of the canals of Mars, and the demonstration by this impersonal method of the seasonal changes in the dark areas, and of the occasional appear-

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