“The Stars Make Night Beautiful . . .”

By -

Mrs. Eddy’s gift to her household staff is on view at the Museum

A gleaming century-old telescope in rare, mint condition is the star (pardon the pun!) of our latest lobby exhibit at Longyear Museum.

The title of the exhibit is taken from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” 240.

Mary Baker Eddy had this state-of-the-art instrument purchased as a gift to her staff at 400 Beacon Street, after learning that several of them had developed a keen interest in astronomy. (The spring 1910 arrival of Halley’s comet had sparked a flurry of interest not just at 400 Beacon Street, but worldwide.)

With the telescope positioned on the roof of Mrs. Eddy’s Chestnut Hill home, which sits atop a hill, secretary Irving Tomlinson recalled that the staff “had a wide expanse of the heavens before them and on cloudless nights could clearly see the stars”1 —or, as his colleague William Rathvon put it, “get a peep at the moon.”2

But, of course, any stargazing and moon-peeping could only happen after the household members had clambered up a steep, narrow stairway from the third floor to get to the rooftop—think of the women doing this in their floor-length skirts! In the words of housekeeper Margaret Macdonald, “The men used to take it up on the roof and several of [us] would go up with our books and flash lights and get the names or the stars and constellations we saw through the glass.”3

As many across the United States and Canada prepare to view a total solar eclipse on April 8, this exhibition of early 20th-century scientific instruments and craftsmanship is both timely and instructive. The high-quality scope, with its 4-inch lens, was produced by the renowned Massachusetts-based firm of Alvan Clark & Sons, founded in 1846. The company built multiple large refracting telescopes for universities and observatories around the world—including the largest one at the time (1873), made for the United States Naval Observatory.4

Enjoy this photo gallery, sharing how the display has been set up. Better yet, if you’re in the area, come by and see it in person!


  1. Irving Tomlinson Reminiscences, 770; The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston, Massachusetts (referenced as MBEL hereafter).
  2. William Rathvon Reminiscences, 282, MBEL.
  3. Margaret Macdonald Reminiscences, 20, MBEL.
  4.  “The 26-inch ‘Great Equatorial’ telescope,” U.S. Naval Observatory website.