Dr. Edmund Halley, R.N., M.A., LL.D., D.C.L., F.S.A., F.R.S., (1656-1742) was a scientist's scientist and a man whose approach to the subject had much in common with the approach of today's scientist. He loved research and revelled in attacking the new and fashionable problems of the day. He was the epitome of the scientific generalist and seized every scientific opportunity that arose. Halley enjoyed taking protracted series of observations, and also analysing historic observations collected by others. He was very keen to write up his work and to present it to others. Halley loved seeing his name in print. In the instrument field he is to be remembered as the first scientist who actually got a government grant to pay for his telescopes. Some of his life was spent in naval, monetary and diplomatic pursuits. As far as science goes, Halley ended his career holding two of the top jobs of the day, Astronomer Royal and Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford. He made pioneering advances in such divers subjects as meteorology, deep-sea diving, the investigation of meteors and the aurora borealis, life assurance, atmospheric structure, navigation, solar distance measurement, geomagnetism, stellar brightness and movement, cosmology, cometary orbits, cosmochronology, solar eclipses and lunar recession.
In 1902 the optics for a large new reflector, intended to be erected and used for research at a remote location, were delivered by their noted maker but turned out to be badly flawed, just as with the Hubble Space Telescope nine decades later. In 1902 the telescope was the 37-inch reflector for a new Lick Observatory southern-hemisphere station in Chile, and the maker was the John A. Brashear Co. What the faulty test was which allowed the flawed mirror to go forward; how the telescope was nearly 'launched' from San Francisco (by ship to Chile) with it in place; how the error was discovered and analyzed; and how it was rectified are all parts of the story. Among the players were opticians Brashear and his son-in-law James B. McDowell, optical experts Charles S. Hastings and Frank Wadsworth, astronomers W.W. Campbell, William H. Write, Heber D. Curtis, and Harold K. Palmer, and millionaire Darius O. Mills. As in the case of the HST, the story has a happy ending of long and productive research far from the center to which the data were sent back.
William Herschel and the Bath Philosophical Society
Eighteenth Century Bath in Herschel's time was a cultured city of Georgian elegance. In 1777 the Bath Agricultural Society had formed to improve scientific understanding of farming which had been static for many years. The members included doctors from the Bath Hospital, and Joseph Priestley, later to be recognised for his discovery of oxygen from a house near Bath. Eighteenth Century societies of this kind were patterned on the Royal Society (1660). The Bath Philosophical Society arose from a group within the Agricultural Society wishing to discuss and perform experiments on scientific matters. On 28th December 1779, it was formed including as a founder member William Herschel. Dr. William Watson, FRS and J. Priestley were also members, 11 of the 27 are now listed in the Dictionary of National Biography. Thirty-one papers were given by William Herschel during the eight years of its existence. Some were later published in London through the Royal Society, others remain in personal diaries and papers. Today the William Herschel Society and The Herschel House Trust are committed to preserving the house of William and Caroline and researching the amazing achievements of this family. The William Herschel Museum was opened on March 13th 1971, just 200 years after the discovery of Uranus from the garden of 19 New King Street. William Herschel's name is once again known to the residents of the city, aided by the Annual Public Lecture in the city by distinguished astronomers with Dr. Patrick Moore as Society President.
Early in the 20th century, a little known farm boy in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin made his own telescope, and using it he discovered several comets. The thrill of making those discoveries and the joy of having done so with a home-made telescope prompted John Edward Mellish to write a letter that was published by the editor of Scientific American magazine. In this and subsequent articles, Mellish described the experience and volunteered to help others do the same. These articles and Mellish's effort to promote amateur telescope making played a role in stimulating what later became the amateur telescope making movement led by Albert G. Ingalls, editor at Scientific American, with the help of Russell W. Porter. However, by the time that movement started in the late 1920s, Mellish himself was a proprietor of a small but successful telescope and specialty optics manufacturing business. He maintained that business for over forty years, making both refractors and reflectors for professional and amateur astronomers, and specialized in optical systems for spectrographs, photometers and other optical devices for many professional observatories. This paper will discuss the early years of Mellish's career as a telescope maker and place that career in the context of what later developed as the amateur telescope making movement in North America.
Peter Louwman, ‘Collecting Antique Telescopes in Europe’
Peter Louwman has been actively collecting antique telescopes for more than 30 years. He will tell us about his experience in searching for and buying very old telescopes in Europe. His keenest interest lies in the very early and very long telescopes dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Such telescopes are among the very oldest existing and they are extremely rare. Many people would expect to find them only in museums. Still, in Europe it is possible to occasionally discover such very old scopes for sale! With a bit of luck, it may even still have its optical parts complete. However, to find these old telescopes, one must regularly go hunting, travelling through Europe, visiting countless flea markets and instrument dealers, and watching the sales at the major auctions of scientific instruments in Amsterdam, Paris and London. His collection also includes luxurious opera glasses, small spyglasses and binoculars, especially the ones that have extraordinary optical designs, or that have interesting or funny gadgets. He will show approximately 35 slides of some of the most treasured telescopes from his private collection and will discuss not only the technical specifications, but also interesting historical information. He will also explain why some of the telesopes are his personal favorites.
‘Problem Objects’: A Plea for some Basic Information
A plea for information concerning some hidden details of the mounting design for some early Grubb refractors (for which drawings do not exist), and also for some advice on the origin of a particular unattributable instrument that appears to be unique.
The Works of Dr. Kitchiner
Buying a telescope in England 50 years ago, with difficulty in finding out about makers. Clay & Court, H.C. King and the mention of Dr. Kitchiner. Dr. Kitchiner himself and his books. Various excerpts that seem as fresh today as they were 180 years ago. Comments on makers and telescopes of his day, together with several memorable quotes from his writings. Kitchiner eyepiece. Where Dr. Kitchiner lived, Fitzrovia, cookery and various quotes of recipes and other books. Sources of information.
A Little Known Nottingham Amateur Astronomer and Telescope Maker: Thomas William Bush, FRAS (1839-1929)
The astronomical career of Thomas William Bush illustrates many essential characteristics of amateur astronomy in late nineteenth century England. As a self taught telescope maker and astronomer, Bush constructed a prize winning 13-inch Newtonian reflector equipped with one of England's earliest silver on glass mirrors. With other instruments provided to him by G.B. Airy as a result of that telescope's excellence, Bush established a well equipped observatory at Thrya Grove, Mapperley, where he conducted astronomical observations for eleven years including the 1882 transit of Venus, and the apparitions of Comets Tebbutt and Schaeberle, as well as the moon and planets. In 1888, Bush was employed as an astronomer by Lord Forester at Willey Park, Shropshire, where he remained until 1909. After his retirement, Bush constructed two 24-inch reflecting telescopes, one of which was used for a short time at Nottingham University. Bush's career of telescope making and astronomy span, and well reflect, a golden era in the history of antateur astronomy in England."
The Optical Quality of Some Early Metal Mirrors
Several early mirrors were examined using the Dall null test technique. The test will be described and the results obtained presented and discussed.
Treasures of the RAS Library will show a personal selection from some of the splendid early books in the Royal Astronomical Society Library: a superficial and eclectic canter through some early works in Astronomy and Geophysics with an emphasis on visual pleasure. The talk falls into seven sections; Introduction, Classics of Theory (or fantasy!), Classics of Observation, Beyond Astronomy, the Physical Book, Eclectic Odds and Ends, and Monsters and the Sky.
The Construction of the Giant Telescope at Birr Castle
In 1839 William Parsons, Third Earl of Rosse, built a 36 inch telescope but shortly afterwards took up the task of constructing a 72 inch, destined to be the largest telescope in the world for the next 70 years. He planned, directed, and financed the entire project himself. He trained his unskilled workers, built his own foundry to cast the 4-ton speculum mirrors, and designed a steam powered machine for grinding and polishing them. The 15-ton telescope was mounted between massive masonry walls 50 feet high and was operated by an ingenious system of pulleys and counterweights. Some of the details of the building of the 58-foot long 'Leviathan of Parsonstown' and its mounting will be described.
The Early History of the Achromatic Telescope
At an early age, the lawyer Chester Moor Hall had already seen a flaw in Newton's science of colours. In the second half of the 1740s, after having overcome important theoretical and practical difficulties, he succeeded in producing the first useful achromatic object glasses. In spite of his success, Hall's invention went unnoticed because efficient production of his achromatic object glasses was not possible with the optical production techniques common at that time. It was only the invention of the former silk weaver and autodidact John Dollond, finding a completely new method for correcting optical surfaces on the basis of Hall's work, which allowed a breakthrough towards cost efficient mass production of achromatic object glasses.
The History and Future of a Fine 20-inch Brashear Refractor--The Story of the Chabot Observatory and its Forthcoming Change of Location
The 'Oakland Observatory' first opened its doors downtown in November 1883 with a fine 8-inch Clark refractor called Leah. After several renovations, including the addition of a 4 1/8-inch Fauth transit telescope, the observatory moved to a then-rural location in 1915, including installation of a 20 inch Brashear refractor called Rachel. After over 81 years in the same location, the observatory will be moving again due to increasing light pollution and the location of the observatory on an earthquake fault rift. The historic instruments will be moved, renovated and reinstalled, along with a 1-meter class instrument. The new 70,000 square foot facility will include a planetarium, auditorium, and exhibit space. Plans for the new facility, groundbreaking for which will occur in October, as well as removal and renovation of the telescopes, will be presented, incorporated with a look at 'Rachel's' history and renovation details.
Art and the Telescope Maker
Profiling two American telescope makers who are as well known for their non-optical artistic ability as they are for their wonderful instruments.
MEETING OF THE ANTIQUE TELESCOPE SOCIETY, SEPTEMBER 1997
ABSTRACTS OF PRESENTATIONS TO THE SESSIONS
Photographs from ATS Conventions.
A slide presentation of highlights from earlier ATS conventions.
Joseph von Fraunhofer: a brief account on his life and his work.
This paper describes his life and the circumstances that led to his success as an optician, an inventor and a physicist.
The Early History of Binocular Telescopes.
Telescopes have been designed and constructed in a binocular configuration since the era in which their documentation begins. The first centuries of the telescope included many binocular instruments made from refractors and various types of reflectors. The contemporary record of these binocular telescopes and their use, and the surviving examples in today's museums, will be discussed and illustrated.
Solar Spectroscopy with the Snow Horizontal Telescope.
The workings of the Snow telescope and especially of its pit spectrograph for observations of chromospheric structure will be described as a prelude to the tour of the instrument. The recent reactivation of the Snow for undergraduate education is a model for other under-utilized historic telescopes.
John Briggs and Don Osterbrock
The Frustrations of a Veteran Astronomical Optician: Robert Lundin, 1882-1962.
Robert Lundin, apprenticed in 19th century optical craftsmanship but employed in 20th century fabrication and engineering, suffered many frustrations during a nonetheless productive career. Son of Carl A.R. Lundin, a senior optician at the famous American firm of Alvan Clark and Sons, Robert grew up building telescopes. As a teenager, he assisted with such projects as the 40-inch objective for Yerkes Observatory. After his father's death in 1915, he became manager of the Clark Corporation and was responsible for many smaller, successful refractors and reflectors. Lundin also completed major projects, including a highly praised 20-inch achromat for Van Vleck Observatory and a 13-inch used at Lowell Observatory to discover Pluto. But a 1929 dispute with the owners of the Clark Corporation led to Lundin's resignation and his creation of "C.A. Robert Lundin and Associates." This short-lived firm built several observatory refractors, including a 10 1/2-inch for the retired chairman of General Electric, but none were entirely successful, and the Great Depression finished off the company. In 1933, Lundin took a job as head of Warner & Swasey's new optical shop, only to experience his greatest disasters. The 82-inch reflector for McDonald Observatory was delayed for years until astronomers uncovered an error in Lundin's procedure for testing the primary mirror. A 15-inch photographic lens for the Naval Observatory was a complete failure. Under pressure to complete a 24-inch Schmidt camera, Lundin seems to have attempted to deceive visiting astronomers. After retirement in the mid 1940s, Lundin moved to Austin, Texas, the home of his daughter, where he died. His difficulties should not obscure his success with many instruments that continue to serve as important research and education tools.
A Great Telescope Moves South.
The Columbia University 12 3/8-inch Alvan Clark refractor, having fallen into a state of disrepair and disuse, was advertised for sale in November 1990 by the University. Although highly desired and even auctioned for sale on one occasion, potential purchasers shied away due to the nearly impossible task of removing it from the roof of the 14th story physics building at the University. This paper will detail how the breakdown and removal was accomplished, along with plans and projections for an authentic restoration and future observatory for this wonderful instrument.
Recently Discovered Lantern Slides of Yerkes.
60 lantern slides by Mr. R.J. Wallace, staff photographer for Yerkes observatory 1903-1908, were recently discovered at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. These show the construction of Yerkes and its telescopes; the fabrication of the Snow solar telescope, the fire that destroyed it, and its re-construction; the grinding of the 60 inch mirror, and other subjects. They have been converted to 35mm and will be projected and described.
George Ellery Hale’s Amateur Telescopes and Kenwood Observatory.
George Ellery Hale, later the founder of Yerkes, Mount Wilson, and Palomar Observatories, began his astronomical career as an amateur in Chicago. His first telescope was a second-hand Clark 4-inch refractor, recommended by double-star observer S. W. Burnham, and bought by Hale's wealthy father, the head of an elevator company, in 1882. Later, perhaps in 1885, Hale obtained a second 4-inch, made by John Byrne, which is now in the Caltech Archives. Hale's subsequent advances, culminating in his 12-inch Brashear refractor (with a Warner & Swasey mounting and dome), spectrograph, and spectroheliograph at his Kenwood Physical Observatory, completed in 1891 when he was 23 years old (and with a second, photographically-corrected Brashear objective added the next year), will be described and illustrated in this paper.
Mount Wilson Observatory’s Second Century.
In the 1970s, increased light pollution from Los Angeles and the advent of larger-aperture telescopes seemed to signal the end of astrophysics at the Observatory. But the Observatory's predicted future has changed since the closing of the 100-inch Hooker Telescope in 1985.
While the 100-inch telescope was closed research on the sun and other stars continued, using the solar towers and the 60-inch telescope. Those programs benefited greatly from the renowned seeing at the Observatory and were unaffected by the night sky brightness.
Mount Wilson Institute was founded in 1986 to ensure the Observatory remained open to research well-suited to the facilities. In addition, advances in computer and electronic technology added to the efficiency of the research programs.
Technological advances since the closing of the 100-inch have not only made the reopening of the telescope possible, but also changed the landscape of the mountain. Combined with the excellent seeing, technology is bringing a new era in astrophysics to the Observatory.
New technology programs that take advantage of the seeing at the Observatory include two kinds of high-spatial resolution capability: interferometry and adaptive optics. The Infrared Stellar Interferometer (ISI, led by Charles Townes of U. C. Berkeley) will soon become an array of three 1.5-meter telescopes to make images at a wavelength of 10 microns. The CHARA visible-light interferometer (led by Hal McAlister of Georgia State University), currently under construction, is planned to be an array of 5-7, 1-meter telescopes up to 400-meters apart. The two interferometers at Mount Wilson will then be the most powerful in the world at their wavelengths of operation.
In 1994 the 100-inch telescope was reopened after refurbishment and the addition of a computerized pointing system. A modern adaptive optics system, built by Chris Shelton, senses and removes the distortions of starlight caused by turbulence in the earth's atmosphere. The system now delivers diffraction-limited images in the visible -- as fine as 0.06 arcseconds resolution in yellow light -- and are as sharp as if the telescope were in space.
The TIE (Telescopes in Education, led by Gil Clark of JPL) program gives classroom access from anywhere in the world to the 24-inch telescope via modem and computer.
There is a final bright point on the Mount Wilson horizon: the City of Los Angeles has decided to convert to shaded street lights, and so far has changed 60% of its fixtures. Efforts are underway to make the Los Angeles basin a "dark sky" site once again.
Using Replicas of Galileo's Telescopes.
This presentation will review what it's like to use replicas of Galileo's telescopes. The optics of the telescope and Galileo's important discoveries will also be discussed.
Lockyer's South Kensington Solar Observatory.
This talk on the South Kensington Solar Physics Observatory will give an account of the history of the institution, its origins and the work it carried out, with a strong emphasis on the instruments used. The latter point will concentrate on the design, origins and fate of the telescopes used at South Kensington, as some were the property of the London Science Museum, some were loaned to Norman Lockyer at Sidmouth, whilst others were sent to the Cambridge University Observatory. Also discussed will be the Common telescope and its mount, as well as its more famous cousin, the Crossley reflector at the Lick Observatory, and why it was a failure in its original form.
The Dollond Family: Five Generations of Opticians.
The history of the Dollond family and the optical business for which they are famous is traced from the time of the Hugenot migration from France in the late 17th century down to the great-great grandsons of John Dollond, who patented the achromatic telescope. Ten members of the family were opticians, including Jesse Ramsden who married a daughter of John Dollond. A family tree has been constructed to help understand the connections in this complex family.
Testing Herschel's Mirrors.
As part of an ongoing program to run optical tests on the products of William Herschel, the 9 inch speculum from a 10 foot Herschel telescope at the Whipple Museum was tested. This mirror was examined using the Dall Null test, with a lens made by Horace Dall.
C. Piazzi Smith: Astronomer, Artist, and Pyramidologist.
A summary of the life of Piazzi Smith, second Astronomer Royal for Scotland. Smyth’s accomplishments, including his work as a pioneer spectroscopist and advocate of mountaintop observatories, were overlooked due to his obsession with the Great Pyramid.
Schyrl de Rheita and Johannes Wiesel.
The Capucin monk Schyrl de Rheita and the Augsburg optician Johannes Wiesel initiated a revolution in optical technology. Their improvements to the manufacturing of lenses and telescopes resulted in the progress in astronomy that was accomplished in the next hundred years.
MEETING OF THE ANTIQUE TELESCOPE SOCIETY, OCTOBER 1998
ABSTRACTS OF PRESENTATIONS TO THE SESSIONS
Photographs from ATS Conventions.
The Early Reflectors Attributed to Isaac Newton.
A brief account of Isaac Newton's early work on the reflecting telescope and a review of the one surviving model in the possession of the Royal Society in London.
The Michigan Large Telescope Project: 1929-1946.
In the first half of this century astronomy at the University of Michigan was limited by the location and size of the 37.5" reflector in Ann Arbor. This paper will outline Michigan's attempts to build a larger reflector, starting with a design by Fecker for a 75" reflector based on the 72" at the DAO, then a design by H. D. Curtis for first a 85" reflector and then a 96" reflector. All of these were intended to be installed in Michigan. Attempts to cast a 86" mirror blank at Corning failed, but finally a mirror of 98" diameter was successfully cast, and delivered to Michigan. World War II intervened and the telescope was never built. After WWII the mirror was used by the Royal Greenwich Observatory in the Isaac Newton Telescope. It was not until the 1980s that Michigan had a share of a telescope this size: the 2.4-m Hiltner telescope at the MDM Observatory in Arizona.