In 1825, President John Quincy Adams signed a bill that called for the creation of a national observatory. The Naval Observatory itself was established in 1830 by John Branch, then Secretary of the Navy, and was originally known as the Depot of Charts and Instruments.
President Adams, an avid astronomy buff, had originally intended for the observatory to be know as the National Observatory. Adams had long wanted to bring astronomy to the forefront in the United States. After leaving office, he spent many nights charting the stars at the observatory with its first superintendent, Navy Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury.
The Naval Observatory has been the site ofmany scientific studies, such as thosemeasuring the speed of light, and the observation of transits of Venus and solar eclipses. The two moons of Mars were discovered there by astronomer Asaph Hall in 1877.