The observatory is named after Robert McKim, who presented to the observatory a complete astronomical outfit at a cost of over $10,000.
McKim was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, on May 24, 1816, and died in Madison, Indiana, May 9, 1887. After completing his apprenticeship as a stonemason in Ireland, he emigrated to the United States, worked for a time in Philadelphia, and moved to Madison, Indiana, in 1837. In 1855, he left stone masonry and established himself in the coal business. Income from investments in real estate enabled him to make investments in manufacturing enterprises which did well.
McKim was always a lover of astronomical studies, and, after his investment income was sufficient, he purchased one of the best telescopes in the United States for a private observatory adjoining his residence. Besides De Pauw, public charities and other institutions of learning also benefited by his bequests.