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The History Of The Leander James McCormick Observatory At The University Of Virginia

Photograph of Leander James McCormick.

In 1870, Leander James McCormick, the brother of Cyrus McCormick the inventor of the reaper, considered donating a telescope to an institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A portrait of Washington College President Robert Edward Lee.

In 1870, Leander James McCormick considering gifting the telescope to Washington College, during Robert Edward Lee’s last year as president of that institution. President Lee wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institute letting that organization know of McCormick’s plan to have a telescope given to an institute of higher education. During the aftermath of the Civil War, Washington College did not have the funds to build a new observatory on campus.

Photograph of Cyrus McCormick.

Leander James McCormick would reconsidered gifting the telescope to another college, further away from his brother’s farm in Raphine, Virginia. In 1877, the decision was made to donate the telescope to the University of Virginia that Thomas Jefferson founded.

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