of Venus of 1874. The British expedition waiting for contact
on Punchbowl Street in Honolulu with Diamond Head in the
he first record of scientific astronomical observations
being made from Hawai`i appears to be that of a British expedition
on 8 December 1874. Captain G. L. Tupman of the HBM Scout
observed a transit of Venus from a site on Punchbowl Street (5).
Observations of this transit were also made from Waimea, Kaua`i
and Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i Island..
David Kalakaua reigned
over the Kingdom of Hawai`i from 1874 to 189l. King Kalakaua was
a worldly and progressive monarch, especially considering how recently
his people had been exposed to the society and culture of the “civilized”
Western world. It was his ambition, as King of Hawai`i, to travel
far and wide to learn the ways of the outside world. Even before
his voyage, which took place in 1881 (6), Kalakaua
had shown an interest in astronomy, and in a letter to Captain R.
S. Floyd on November 22, 1880, had expressed a desire to see an
observatory established in Hawai`i. His voyage began with a visit
to San Francisco, where he visited
Lick Observatory in nearby San Jose. Mr. French of Lick Observatory
evidently was the King's guide at the observatory. In his journal
Mr. French noted how interested and enthusiastic the King had been
and how he had expressed a desire to bring such a telescope to Hawai`i.
Letter from King Kalakaua
It was not long after this that King Kalakaua expressed
his interest in having an observatory in Hawai`i. Perhaps as a result
of the King's interest a telescope was purchased from England in
1883 for Punahou School, a
private school established by early missionaries to Hawai`i. In
1884 the five-inch refractor was installed in a dome constructed
above Pauahi Hall on the school's campus. Unfortunately, it was
not a stable, solid mounting, and the telescope was not useable.
Nevertheless, it was the first permanent telescope in Hawai`i and
did prove itself useful later on, as we shall see. In 1956 this
telescope was installed in Punahou's newly completed MacNeil Observatory
and Science Center. Sometime since then it was replaced and has
disappeared, sad to relate.
It appears that the first scientific astronomical and geophysical
studies made on Mauna Kea were those conducted
in 1892 by Mr. E. D. Preston, astronomer, of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic
Survey as part of an extensive survey of the island of Hawai`i. Together
with his assistant, Mr. W. E. Wall, and surveyor Prof. W. D. Alexander,
the team set up near Lake Waiau a meridian telescope for determining
latitude, as well as a gravimeter, a magnetometer, and a barometer
to determine altitude. This expedition contributed the first accurate
base-line geophysical data for the island.
1892 survey of Mauna Kea summit