Thursday, October 18, 2012

George Ellery Hale - Pasadena Visionary

George Ellery Hale, the Solar Priest of Mount Wilson Observatory, managed to convince Pasadena's civic and educational leaders and Andrew Carnegie to follow his enlightened vision for a Pasadena of the future, forming the foundation for the evolving scientific, educational and artistic center of the West that Pasadena would become.
He was a driven individual, and in Pasadena he founded the Mount Wilson Observatory and directed Edwin Hubble to make his astounding discoveries of the expanding universe.  Also, Hale was instrumental in convincing Amos Throop to turn Throop University into the California Institute of Technology and helped develop Caltech into the premier research and scientific university in the West.
Hale seemed delusional at times, claiming that a little green man sat on his window ledge in the middle of the night and advised him about how to proceed with discovering the wonders of the universe and also how to go about implementing the City Beautiful movement in Pasadena.  Hale built his own Solar temple, observatory and laboratory where he lived after his retirement as director of the Mount Wilson Observatory, where he continued his conversations with the little green man from the sky.
The City of Pasadena owes much to how it looks today, with one of the most beautiful civic centers of a town its size, to Hale's vision to apply the City Beautiful aesthetic to the planning of Pasadena's civic center. Hale saw himself as a Solar Priest during his time as the director of the Mount Wilson Observatory, holding elaborate torch lit ceremonies late at night with his astronomers in the Monastery on the observatory grounds.  Now his sculpted bust looks out eternally from the Caltech campus towards his beloved Acropolis of the West, on the high peak of Mount Wilson, where he put his dreams into reality in the discovery of the nature of Sun and the ever expanding universe.


  1. Amen. Very well written. Hale is my hero. We have to thank him for the beauty of the Caltech campus and the Civic Centre. And for using Myron Hunt as his architect.

  2. He was quite the visionary, although from what I understand the "little green man" stories are apocryphal. Maybe he just didn't want to take all the credit for himself.

  3. @Bellis, yes we are very fortunate to have someone like Hale here taking the lead during the community's formative years.
    @Petrea, yes, perhaps apocryphal, however I've seen some strange sites and heard some strange stories from around Pasadena and Altadena, so Hale's story is not the strangest I've heard, particularly when you read what Jack Parsons was up to on South Orange Grove.