Great Astronomers HTML version

Provost Baldwin held absolute sway in the University of Dublin for forty-one years. His
memory is well preserved there. The Bursar still dispenses the satisfactory revenues
which Baldwin left to the College. None of us ever can forget the marble angels round
the figure of the dying Provost on which we used to gaze during the pangs of the
Examination Hall.
Baldwin died in 1785, and was succeeded by Francis Andrews, a Fellow of seventeen
years' standing. As to the scholastic acquirements of Andrews, all I can find is a
statement that he was complimented by the polite Professors of Padua on the elegance
and purity with which he discoursed to them in Latin. Andrews was also reputed to be a
skilful lawyer. He was certainly a Privy Councillor and a prominent member of the Irish
House of Commons, and his social qualities were excellent. Perhaps it was Baldwin's
example that stimulated a desire in Andrews to become a benefactor to his college. He
accordingly bequeathed a sum of 3,000 pounds and an annual income of 250 pounds
wherewith to build and endow an astronomical Observatory in the University. The
figures just stated ought to be qualified by the words of cautious Ussher (afterwards the
first Professor of Astronomy), that "this money was to arise from an accumulation of a
part of his property, to commence upon a particular contingency happening to his
family." The astronomical endowment was soon in jeopardy by litigation. Andrews
thought he had provided for his relations by leaving to them certain leasehold interests
connected with the Provost's estate. The law courts, however, held that these interests
were not at the disposal of the testator, and handed them over to Hely Hutchinson, the
next Provost. The disappointed relations then petitioned the Irish Parliament to redress
this grievance by transferring to them the moneys designed by Andrews for the
Observatory. It would not be right, they contended, that the kindly intentions of the late
Provost towards his kindred should be frustrated for the sake of maintaining what they
described as "a purely ornamental institution." The authorities of the College protested
against this claim. Counsel were heard, and a Committee of the House made a report
declaring the situation of the relations to be a hard one. Accordingly, a compromise was
made, and the dispute terminated.
The selection of a site for the new astronomical Observatory was made by the Board of
Trinity College. The beautiful neighbourhood of Dublin offered a choice of excellent
localities. On the north side of the Liffey an Observatory could have been admirably
placed, either on the remarkable promontory of Howth or on the elevation of which
Dunsink is the summit. On the south side of Dublin there are several eminences that
would have been suitable: the breezy heaths at Foxrock combine all necessary conditions;
the obelisk hill at Killiney would have given one of the most picturesque sites for an
Observatory in the world; while near Delgany two or three other good situations could be
mentioned. But the Board of those pre-railway days was naturally guided by the question
of proximity. Dunsink was accordingly chosen as the most suitable site within the
distance of a reasonable walk from Trinity College.