"Time to make amends," says Observatory's Director.
The University of California's Lick Observatory today unveiled a dramatic change in the configuration of its Mount Hamilton research facility, where, for more than a century, astronomers have gazed into the heavens from their 4,200-foot perch high above the San Francisco Bay Area, seeking to fathom the deepest secrets of the stars.
"Since 1888 we have enjoyed the privilege of pursuing our independent researches, thanks to the munificent hand of our benefactor, James Lick," explained the Observatory's Director. "but the time has come to acknowledge a mistake made over a one-hundred and thirty years ago, and to make amends. We have therefore replaced our premiere telescope, the Shane 3-meter reflector, with a monument more in keeping with Lick's wishes."
The wealthy and eccentric James Lick, who endowed the celebrated facility that bears his name, died in 1876. It had long been thought that Lick's final wish was that his fortune be used to build the largest and most powerful telescope on earth. However, recent scholarship has revealed that the aging millionaire may well have been coerced on his deathbed into abandoning his earlier, well-known plan to instead build the world's largest pyramid to hold his remains.
A hitherto unknown letter in Lick's hand, penned only hours before his death, was discoverd late last year at the University of California Berkeley's Bancroft Library. "There is no doubt that the manuscript is genuine," said a member of the library staff, "and the closing sentence, in which Lick writes 'I don't give a hoot what they say, I really want my pyramid!' makes it difficult to misunderstand his sentiment.
"We've had our fun, now it's his turn," said the Director, summing up the Observatory's unexpected makeover. "And anyway," he added, "it's not like we haven't got a bunch of other telescopes." The Observatory plans to transfer Lick's remains to the pyramid from their current resting place at the base of the 36-inch Refractor.