Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center, located at the top of a scenic mountain range south of Boston, is a unique American institution. Founded in 1885 by Abbott Lawrence Rotch as a private scientific center for the study and measurement of the atmosphere, it was the site of many pioneering weather experiments and discoveries. The earliest kite soundings of the atmosphere in North America in the 1890s and the development of the radiosonde in the 1930s occurred at this historic site. Today, the Observatory is a National Historic Landmark and remains committed to continuing its extensive, uninterrupted climate record with traditional methods and instruments. The recently established Science Center expands this mission by enhancing public understanding of atmospheric science.
The Blue Hill Observatory was conceived and constructed by Abbott Lawrence Rotch when he was 25 years of age. This fascinating man, born during the start of the Civil War in April 1861, was the seventh child of a prominent Boston family whose roots went back to Nantucket and New Bedford whaling and shipping interests in the 18th century. Joseph Rotch, Abbott's great-great-grandfather, owned the ship Dartmouth, which was involved in the Boston Tea Party in 1773, and his son William built the warehouse that became the Pacific Club, which still anchors Main Street in Nantucket. As a youth, Rotch traveled extensively with his family, especially with his maternal grandfather, Abbott Lawrence, who was the minister to Great Britain and one of the founders of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Rotch was enrolled in European schools in Paris, Berlin, and Florence where he learned to speak French and German fluently. This served him well in later years when he traveled and lectured, becoming internationally recognized in the new field of meteorology.