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In 1885 two Smith College trustees donated money in honor of their wives so the college could build an observatory and buy the instruments it needed to run it. A plaque on the building reads "Tribute of affection to Henrietta Chapin Seelye and Sarah Tappan Williston by their husbands." Professor David Todd, noted astronomer and temporary instructor at Smith selected the equipment including a steel movable dome, a telescope with a glass 12" in diameter, transit instruments, a chronometer and a clock.