Chronicling/An ongoing series highlighting University of Pittsburgh history

Issue Date: 
October 8, 2007

Samuel P. Langley

Oct. 13, 1871—The Pittsburgh Daily Commercial publishes a feature on improvements at the Allegheny Observatory and on research work by Pitt Professor Samuel P. Langley, director of the observatory from 1867 to 1890.

As historian Robert C. Alberts wrote in Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh, 1787-1987, “Langley had begun a program of measuring distances to and between the nearby stars that was bringing international recognition and honors to himself, the observatory, and the University.”

Named assistant secretary to the Smithsonian in 1887, Langley for three years would divide his time between Pitt and Washington, where he was to become famous in 1896 for carrying out successful flights with unmanned steam-powered planes and thus pave the way for the Wright brothers.