Visiting Lick Observatory

Laurentine Hamilton Memorial

The Laurentine Hamilton Bust
The rotunda, housing the bust of Laurentine Hamilton, is located opposite the east entrance to the Main Building.

The Laurentine Hamilton Plaque
Located in the foyer of the Main Building, the plaque contains an account of Hamilton's role in the naming of the mountain. The full text of the plaque is included below.

The Reverend
Laurentine Hamilton
1826 - 1882

The Naming of Mount Hamilton

In the late summer of 1861, William H. Brewer, director of field work for the California State Geological Survey, invited his long-time friend, the Reverend Laurentine Hamilton, to accompany him on a mountain-climbing expedition. Their goal was a peak judged to be the highest in the Diablo Range, thirteen miles east of San Jose. After an arduous mule ride, the party hiked the last three miles on foot. Brewer and his assistant, Charles F. Hoffman, carried heavy surveying instruments and soon fell behind. "As we neared the summit," Brewer later recalled, "Mr. Hamilton pushed on ahead of us, and reaching it, swung his hat in the air and shouted back to us: 'First on top - for this is the highest point.' " Sometime later that year, Brewer or Hoffman suggested that the mountain be called Hamilton, in honor of the Reverend Hamilton, and the name was thereupon adopted.

Who was Laurentine Hamilton? In 1892 the following tribute was written by the Reverend Hamilton's son, Edward "Ned" Hamilton, and published in the San Francisco Examiner:

The Rev. L. Hamilton was born near Seneca Lake, in Western New York, was graduated from Hamilton College in the class of '49, entered the Presbyterian ministry, came to California in 1856 and assumed charge of the church at Columbia, Tuolumne county, "the queen of the Southern mines." From Columbia he removed to San Jose in 1859 and to Oakland five years later. At Oakland he became estranged from the Presbyterian Church and established the Independent Church, where on Easter Sunday morning, 1882, just as he had said, "We know not what matter is ..." he dropped in his pulpit among the lilies of the platform and died as he had wished to die, in harness. Such is an outline of the life history of the courageous, brainy, kindly man from whom California's most famous mountain took its name.

Erected on April 9, 1982, the 100th anniversary of the Reverend Hamilton's death.

This commemoration was made possible through a generous gift to the
University of California from the Reverend Hamilton's granddaughter,
Miss Clara-Belle Hamilton.


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