Edgar Lucien Larkin was born to a poor family in a log cabin near Indian Creek, Illinois. When his father died, eleven-year-old Edgar and his mother moved to Ottawa, Illinois, to live with his grandmother. Like his predecessor, Dr. Lewis Swift, Edgar Larkin’s interest in astronomy began with a view of the heavens – in his case, the comet Donati. By 1880, he had his own private observatory.
Eight years later, he and his equipment moved to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he remained until 1890, when he was chosen to replace Dr. Swift at the Mount Lowe Observatory. There he expanded the observatory lectures, now free to visitors, and held special evenings for schools and private parties. Pacific Electric, which now owned the railroad, promoted the observatory as “the only astronomical observatory in Southern California open to visitors.” And in 1905, he and the photographer Charles Lawrence saved the Observatory and its famous telescope, from the windstorm and fire that destroyed the other buildings on Echo Mountain.
Larkin was also a prolific author, with three books and hundreds of articles to his credit. His interests ranged wide, from astronomy to Hindu, Greek and Egyptian philosophies, and to the mysteries of the occult and the lost continents of Atlantis and Mu. An e-book version of his last book, The Matchless Alter of the Soul, can be found on line. It’s a fascinating perspective on the man and his ideas.
Edgar Larkin ran the observatory for 25 years. After his death in 1925, his son, Ralph, and his friend Charles Lawrence, honored his wishes by scattering his ashes on the summit of a peak near Inspiration Point.