Estevan A. Fuertes


Fuertes Observatory is named after Estevan A. Fuertes, a civil engineer from Puerto Rico (born 1838, died 1903). Estevan Fuertes became Dean of the Engineering School at Cornell University in 1873. (See The Cornellian, 1888 p 139, an article entitled "Estevan A. Fuertes").

From the Cornell Alumni News, p 294:

"As the crowning of the course in surveying, Professor Fuertes had built and equipped a small observatory on the Campus where the Seniors on every clear evening throughout the fall term made observations on the stars and computed time, latitude, and azimuth. Theory and methods he taught in his course on Practical Astronomy, the larger part of which remained a mystery to the class, even to those who managed to pass the course."


From "Otro Ilustre Desconocido: Estevan Antonio Fuertes" by José López Baralt. Puerto Rico Hustrado, p 12 & 54. Around 1932:

"La astronomía fué una de sus grandes aficiones, y sus conocimientos astronómicas eran muy profundos. Por muchos años enseñó dicha materia. El reloj en la torre de la biblioteca de Cornell, que divide oficialmente el tiempo para la Universidad por muchos años estuvo dirr_ido con precisión matemática por las observaciones periódicas que hacia Fuertes en la bóveda celeste. Dificilmente se puede pasar por Cornell sin leer en los anuncios semanales de las actividades universitarias: "Friday night, if clear, public night at the Fuertes Observatory" En los últimos años de su vida, un amigo admirador suyo regaló a la Universidad un observatorio astronómico, que perpetúa el nombre y la memoria del gran puertorriqueño."

Translated by Joelle Meniktos-Nolting:

Astronomy was one of his great enjoyments, and his astronomical knowledge was very extensive. For many years, he taught this subject. The clock in the tower of the Cornell Library which officially divides the time for the university for many years was monitored with mathematical precision by Fuertes' periodical observations of the sky. Its difficult to walk through Cornell without reading in the weekly announcements of the university activities "Friday night, if clear, public night at the Fuertes Observatory." In the last years of his life, an admiring friend of his gave the university an astronomical observatory that perpetuates the name and the memory of the great Puertorican.

Another Fuertes of note, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, was Estevan's son. It is after Louis Agassiz Fuertes that the Cornell Ornithology Lab is named after. This information from Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 7, p 52-53, from the Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell:

"[At the time that Fuertes was dean of the Civil Engineering at Cornell University], Cornell was then at low ebb; the engineering department was housed in two rooms over the veterinary department, from which nauseating smells continually arose... [Fuertes'] dexterity and precision were extraordinary, and for many years he personally made regular star observations by which the university tower clock was accurately controlled."

Originally written by the Cornell Astronomical Society, 2000.

Fuertes Observatory
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