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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

The Astronomical Observatory

Observatory and instruments purchased by Joseph Caldwell (1773-1885) in Europe

In 1824, Caldwell traveled to Europe to purchase books and scientific equipment for the university. He brought back almost a thousand volumes, telescopes, and other instruments. To house his purchases, he oversaw the first astronomical observatory built on an American college campus. It was a single-roomed brick and stone building with a slot in the roof and a moveable tower for instruments. After Caldwell's death in 1835, the building fell into disrepair and later was dismantled. In 2004, the university dedicated another telescope, the Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research (SOAR). It was built in Chile in partnership with other universities, Brazil, and the U.S. government.