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Architectural drawings of the William Pitt Telescope

Call Number: PP 526


This collection contains 83 drawings of the William Pitt telescope, 1952 observatory plans, and 1970 astrology cold box.


  • Creation: 1927 - 1970

Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of William Pitt Telescope

In 1919 Dinsmore Alter, professor of astronomy at the University of Kansas, secured funding for the construction of a new observatory and purchase of a six-inch reflecting telescope. Alter wanted to build a larger, twenty-inch reflecting telescope and eventually created an active program of asteroidal and cometary research on campus. In 1927, he enlisted the help of amateur astronomist and wealthy businessman William Pitt. Pitt spent one year grinding two Pyrex lenses for the telescope. Upon completion, these lenses were then plated in aluminium by 1926 University of Kansas Graduate Dr. John Strong.

The mechanical parts of the telescope were designed and produced by Manley Hood, a 1929 University graduate, and his brother Henry. The two produced all parts except for two in the University's Fowler Shops. The two parts too big for Fowler to handle were cast in Kansas City. In 1930, just a few hundred dollars short of completion, the project ran out of funding. Alter left the University in 1935, leaving it up to Wyman Storer to complete the telescope. Four years after Storer took over the project, the William Pitt Telescope was officially dedicated on February 17, 1939.

In 1944, the observatory was demolished and the telescope went into storage in the basement of Hoch Auditorium. In 1952, another observatory was built on top of Lindley Hall to house the telescope. The observatory was named Tombaugh Observatory after University of Kansas graduate Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto in 1930. Tombaugh also worked on the telescope while he completed his Master's degree in astronomy from 1938 until 1939. The telescope remained on top of Lindley hall until 2001, when the observatory had fallen into disrepair. The University placed the telescope on permanent loan to the Northeast Kansas Amateur Astronomers League. The telescope was moved to Farpoint Observatory on the grounds of Mission Valley High School near Auburn, Kansas and refurbished.


1 box (10 folders (oversize))

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

77 drawings of the William Pitt Telescope, 8 drawings of the observatory on Lindley, and 3 drawings of the astrology cold box.

Physical Location

PP 526

Related Materials

Consult library staff regarding the availability of related photographs, biographical files, and scrapbooks.

Guide to the William Pitt Telescope Collection
Architectural drawings of the William Pitt Telescope
Finding aid prepared by el, 2014; Finding aid encoded by el, 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in <language encodinganalog="language">English</language>
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
William Pitt Telescope Collection, University Archives, PP 526, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States