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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Carnegie Institution of Washington
This article is about a scientific institution. For the center of higher learning which is not a part of Carnegie Mellon University, refer to Carnegie Institute of Technology. For the Carnegie Institute which operates the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, see that article.
The Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) is a foundation established to support scientific research. Today the CIW directs its afforts in six main areas: plant molecular biology at the Department of Plant Biology (Stanford, CA), developmental biology at the Department of Embryology (Baltimore, MD), global ecology at the Department of Global Ecology (Stanford, CA), Earth science at the Geophysical Laboratory (Washington, DC); planetary sciences at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (Washington, DC), and astronomy (at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (OCIW; Pasadena, CA and Las Campanas, Chile)).

The Institution's grant to George Hale was used for the construction of a telescope built around a large mirror blank that he had received as a gift from his father. The OCIW funded the completion of the 60-inch Hale Telescope on Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains above Pasadena, California. Immediately work began on designing the even larger Hooker Telescope (100-inch), completed in 1917. Two solar telescopes were also constructed with Carnegie support and together they form the Mount Wilson Observatory, still chiefly supported by the Carnegie Institution after 100 years. The OCIW went on to help Hale design and build the 200-inch telescope of the Palomar Observatory (although construction was mostly paid for by a Rockefeller grant).
The OCIW's chief observatory is now the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, where two identical 6.5 meter Magellan telescopes operate. OCIW is the lead institution in the consortium building the Giant Magellan Telescope, which will be made up seven mirrors each 8.4 meters in diameter for a total telescope diameter of 25.4 metres (83 feet). The telescope is expected to have over four times the light-gathering ability of existing instruments.

Observatories of the Carnegie Institution
In 1920 the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Spring Harbor, New York was merged with the Station for Experimental Evolution to become the CIW's Department of Genetics. The CIW funded that laboratory until 1939. It closed in 1944 and its records were retained in a university library. The CIW continues its support for genetic research, and among its notable grantees in that field are Nobel laureates Barbara McClintock, Alfred Hershey and Andrew Fire.

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