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The Clyde from the Source to the Sea
Chapter V. Institutions


Glasgow possesses many scientific and literary institutes, many of these, such as the Philosophical Society, carrying back a corporate record to the beginning of the present century. This Society was instituted in 1802, the first president being Professor Wm. Meikleham, LL.D.

The Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders is a younger body, and was instituted in 1857 under the presidency of the genial and accomplished Professor Macquorn Rankine.

Geological, natural history, and other societies discuss questions relating to our solid globe and its inhabitants, archaeological societies revive our interest in the past, while literary and educational societies discuss questions of a more general character. As educational institutions, more or less scientific in their character, the Andersonian, Mechanics Institution, and Athenaeum have long been well known, and many can look back with gratitude to the help which these places of learning afforded them when struggling to acquire some further information than a short school period had enabled them to obtain, and to advance in the special line of knowledge which they desired. Old students of the Mechanics’ Institution will not readily forget the stirring addresses made at the annual meetings, when the prizes were presented by the late Sheriff Glassford Bell.

Anderson’s Institution was founded in 179G by Mr. John Anderson, Professor of Natural Philosophy in Glasgow University; and it has long been a centre of class-work, lectures, &c. Classes for mechanics were early started in this Institution.

The Glasgow Mechanics' Institution was started in 1823, and in its first year had fully one thousand students on its roll attending the various scientific lectures and classes. This Institution changed its name in 1881 to that of College of Science and Arts.

The scheme recently drawn up by Commissioners appointed under the provisions of the Educational Endowment (Scotland) Act, viz. that Anderson’s College, the Young Chair of Technical Chemistry in connection with that College, the College of Science and Arts, Allen Glen’s Institution, and the Atkinson Institution should now be amalgamated as The West of Scotland Technical College has been carried out; and the work of these bodies, formerly under separate and independent government, is now administered by a body elected from the Town Council, the University, and various societies in the city, called Governors. Libraries are connected With all these Societies and Institutions, which, combined With the excellent and rapidly-growing public libraries of the city, afford ready means for mental improvement and recreation.

The Glasgow Observatory has for many years been located on Dowmnhill. The original University Observatory stood in the old College grounds in High Street, and was built at the time when the chair of Astronomy ay as founded in 1760. There was an observatory erected in 1810 on Garnothill, which was divided into scientific, popular, and literary departments. It says a great deal for the scientific enterprise of the citizens of the early 3'ears of the century that the}' founded this establishment by “ individual subscription.”

The comet of 1811, from which the first European steamer derived its name, was watched at this observatory, and particulars regarding its orbit, size, &c., deduced. Thus, its distance from the earth on 10th Sept., 1811, was estimated at 1-12,500,000 miles; distance from the sun, 05,258,810 miles; perihelion distance, 01,721,200 miles; length of tail, 83,000,000 miles. The magnitude of the nucleus, as determined by the great telescope of Herschel, which, it is said, stood on a terrace at this observatory, appeared like the full moon. The present observatory, ably presided over by Professor Grant, contains, beside the usual transit instruments, a fine equatorial, having an object-glass of 9 inches diameter and a focal length of 11 feet.


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