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Mount Holyoke College has included astronomy in its curriculum since the its inception. The college was given a telescope as early as 1853 that was housed in a small observatory until trees obstructed the view. In 1880, the College's then treasurer A. Lyman Williston, donated ten thousand dollars for an observatory in honor of his teenage son John Pacson Williston, who died the previous year. The Williston Observatory is the oldest academic building on campus and continues to be used in 2004. Its original turret revolved on 3 Civil War cannon balls. A second turret was added in 1972 to accommodate a 24" reflecting telescope. (The original telescope was sent to Mount Holyoke's sister college in South Africa, Huguenot College.) The original lens is still in the Alvan Clark telescope and is purported to be one of the last ones he manufactured.
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