Common Sense Telescopes: the life & work of Andrew Ainslie Common.
Born in northern England in 1841, Andrew Ainslie Common had an early introduction to astronomy at age ten, when his mother borrowed a telescope from the local doctor. Common's interest in astronomy was rekindled in 1876 when he acquired a 17 1/2 inch silver-on-glass mirror from George Calver of Chelmsford. He put the mirror into a telescope of his own design and used it to undertake planetary observations. Later he ordered a 36-inch mirror from Calver which was incorporated into a highly innovative mounting. Using the telescope Common undertook astrophotography, successfully photographing the Orion Nebula in 1883. After selling this telescope to Edward Crossley, a wealthy Halifax merchant, Common embarked on building a 60-inch telescope with a mirror he ground himself. Problems with the glass blank delayed completion of the telescope, which gave unsatisfactory results until he ground a new mirror 1890. Housed in a moveable shed, the massive telescope was of limited success and was little used in the now light polluted skies west of London. His excellent facilities and experience allowed him to subsequently produce a significant number of large telescope mirrors and optical flats.
Patricia S. Whitesell
A Creation of His Own: Tappan’s Detroit Observatory.
The University of Michigan’s first President, Henry Philip Tappan, created an astronomical observatory in 1854 and named it the Detroit Observatory to honor the city of its major benefactors. The history of the observatory that was Tappan’s personal creation has been chronicled in “A Creation of His Own: Tappan’s Detroit Observatory”, by Patricia S. Whitesell, a book which has just been published by the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan. The story begins with the germ of an idea and progresses through fundraising, the acquisition of astronomical instruments, design and construction of the building, and the early years of what was referred to as the Ann Arbor School of astronomy. The book also covers the recent historic restoration of the observatory building and its telescopes.
The Detroit Observatory retains its original astronomical clock by M. Tiede of Berlin and its historic telescopes in their original mounts and operational: a 6-inch Pistor & Martins meridian circle made in Berlin in 1854, and a 12 5/8-inch Henry Fitz, Jr. refracting telescope made in 1857. The restored Detroit Observatory is preserved to serve as a physical legacy of the University’s first president.
Notes on Restoring the Detroit Observatory's 12" Fitz Refractor.
Walter Yund IV
180 Years of Nantucket Astronomy.
Maria Mitchell, one of the first astronomers in Massachusetts, was born 180 years ago on Nantucket. Among her accomplishments were the discovery of Comet Mitchell, becoming the first Professor of Astronomy at Vassar College, and many awards presented to her from scientific societies and women's groups. She used some very notable scientific instruments including a 5" Clark, and a Fitz that was at the time the third largest telescope in the country. Maria obtained her love of astronomy from her father, also an avid astronomer. For a time, he was on the Board of Overseers of the Harvard Observatory and was chairman of the Harvard Observatory Committee. Maria Mitchell, a truly remarkable astronomer and teacher, was the first woman-astronomer in the United States.
Gayle H. Riggsbee
When the cost of the eclipse trip was only one dollar.
The observing facilities and instruments used by Yerkes, Princeton, Smithsonian and the B.A.A. at the total eclipse of the sun at Wadesboro, NC in May 1900.
Information and photos were obtained from various sources such as local individuals in Wadesboro, newspapers of the day, and the Archives of the Yerkes Observatory. Photos show several individuals at the dawn of their careers, including G.E. Hale, Henry Norris Russell and C.G. Abbot; and others at their twilight, such as Charles Young and S.P. Langley.
The Origins of the Maksutov Club: The Amateur in 1950's American Science.
In post-World War II America a number of amateur astronomical organizations were formed, and among these was the Maksutov Club. Initially organized for economic reasons, the bulk purchasing of otherwise expensive materials, the Maksutov Club rapidly expanded in membership and in scope of activities, becoming one of the most influential organizations of its kind in America. Some of the reasons for its formation were a general interest in science in the 1950's, economics, and the influence of "technological cheerleaders" among professional astronomers and opticians.
Acting as a clearing house for information on optical design and fabrication, and as a kind of research laboratory-at-large, the Maksutov Club was more than simply a group of hobbyists. From its origin, a number of professional astronomers and opticians participated, lending both moral and material support to the non-professional members. In exchange, the amateur members were willing to undertake many experiments in prototype development which, due to time or money constraints, the professionals were unable or unwilling to do. Results were published in the club's 'Circular'. The Maksutov Club was representative of the growing interaction between the amateur and professional scientist in 1950's America.
Early Instruments of Astronomical Spectroscopy.
Visual and photographic instruments of spectroscopy were developed in the 19th century and were used for the chemical analysis of starlight.
M. Eugene Rudd
Eise Eisinga and his Amazing Planetarium.
In 1774 Eise Eisinga, a woolcomber in Franeker, Holland, with no formal education beyond elementary school began constructing what became the most ambitious and elaborate planetarium of the Eighteenth Century. Installed in the ceiling of his living room, the system demonstrates the motions of the planets, indicates the hour, the date, the day of the week, the month of the year, the moon's orbit with changes in the nodes, the times of rising and setting of the moon, and its phases. The sizes of the planetary orbits are exactly to scale. The clockwork mechanism was so well built that even today over two hundred years later, it is still operating and may be seen by visitors.
Donald E. Osterbrock and John W. Briggs
Clark and Lundin Photographs and Letters in the Center for American History in Austin, Texas, and Other Archives.
The "Lundin Papers" at the Center for American History in Austin contain numerous letters and photographs which provide important information on the telescopes and objectives made by the Alvan Clark & Sons Corporation. The shop notebooks of Carl Lundin and his son Robert were used by D. J. Warner and R. B. Ariail in their excellent book, Alvan Clark & Sons: Artists in Optics, but the letters seem to be less well known. Many of them were written to or by Alvan Clark or his son, Alvan G. Clark, back in the early days of their firm.
Episodes in the history of American telescope-making, beginning with the Clarks' first largest refractor in the world, will be described. The letter written by Frederick A. P. Barnard in 1860, ordering it for the University of Mississippi, is in these Papers. Also, interactions of the Clark firm with American research astronomers, especially at Lick and Yerkes Observatories up to 1915, when the elder Lundin died, will be discussed. Other correspondents include Henry Draper, Asaph Hall, S. W. Burnham, and A. A. Michelson. Numerous slides of observatories, Clark telescopes and/or objectives, and of all three Clarks, both Lundins, and various astronomers will be shown.
MEETING OF THE ANTIQUE TELESCOPE SOCIETY, OCTOBER 1999
ABSTRACTS OF PRESENTATIONS TO THE SESSIONS
Photographic Highlights of the 1998 Meeting.
James Short and the development of the reflecting telescope in the first half of the 18th century.
Gary L. Cameron.
Iowa's Hidden Astronomical Treasures.
Iowa is a relatively obscure spot for the history of astronomical instrumentation. However, the author has made several recent finds of previously unknown telescopes and observatories in Iowa at the turn of the century. This paper documents research in progress on three of these discoveries; a 3" Bardou refractor at Iowa State University, a 4" Mogey refractor at the Science Center of Iowa, and an observatory (now non-existent) housing a 5" Alvin Clark and Sons refractor at Upper Iowa University.
Restoring Rachel-The first complete overhaul for an 84-year-old refractor.
In a few months the telescopes from the old Chabot Observatory will be installed in the new Chabot Observatory & Science Center now growing in the hills above Oakland. A team of volunteers under the leadership of Kevin Medlock, builder of the 30-inch telescope of the Fremont Peak Observatory, has completely dismantled this 20-inch Brashear/Warner & Swasey telescope and has made considerable progress in cleaning and/or sand blasting the major pieces and preparing them for painting. Since the building we are using will be torn down shortly after October 1, the work should be largely finished by the ATS meeting. When finished, the telescope will have a blue mount with off-white tube, polished brass, some stainless steel, and a few black trim pieces. Many years ago, a motor replaced the weights for the drive. We plan to drive the telescope and the RA circle with motors but restore the weight drive inside the pier as a functioning demonstration. An interesting connection between Chabot Observatory and the 72-inch telescope for the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory will be shown.
The Great Instruments of the Grubb Telescope-Making Dynasty.
Thomas Grubb of Ireland, born in 1800, was a talented engineer, and by the early 1830s, an active amateur astronomer with a 9-inch reflector. His first large contract was to mount a 13.3-inch lens, which at the time was the largest in the world, for the Markree Observatory. Thus began an extraordinary telescope making enterprise which, by the end of Grubb Parsons in 1985, had built many of the largest and most important telescopes in the world, including the 74-inch David Dunlap reflector in Toronto. This presentation will illustrate 150 years of achievement by Thomas Grubb, his more famous son Howard, and by Sir Howard Grubb, Parsons, and Company, the firm’s later and final incarnation.
Alexis-Marie Rochon, Jean-Baptiste Grateloup, and the earliest cemented lens.
The first use of lens cement in doublet lenses can be traced to late 18th century France. This historical footnote becomes more interesting when it serves as an introduction to Rochon, a fascinating character in the history of science.
Joseph P. Wampler: A Country Squire Ignites a Tradition.
This expose will examine the enterprising man that fashioned some of the earliest telescope lenses made in the United States; a story that culminates with the recent completion of the 8.4 meter Subaru Mirror now housed on Mauna Kea. With a piece of dense flint glass plucked from the smoldering ruin of Pittsburgh's tragic fire of 1849, Squire Wampler's award winning first telescope became the 'flint' that sparked the astronomical interest of young John Brashear, thus starting a tradition of optical craftsmanship in Western Pennsylvania that is still second to none.
Three Unusual Telescopes with a Scottish Connection.
While London was the main center of British instrument making in the 18th and early 19th centuries, it was not the only place where skilled craftsmen plied their trade. Scotland, and in particular Edinburgh and Glasgow, also had important instrument makers including some who made telescopes. Three examples of telescopes from that period with a Scottish connection are described.
So who did invent the achromatic lens?
In 1758, one kind of mediated vision became clearer. A refracting telescope that gave images relatively free of colored fringes appeared for general sale for the first time ever in the shop of Dollond and Son on the Strand in London. Not only was this artifact useful; it ought, according to Newton in the Opticks, not exist. So intriguing a device, and more particularly the lens that lay inside it, attracted much attention. It was hailed as the “greatest improvement in optical instruments” since the time of Newton, an optical invention “of the first rank,” and “a vastly more manageable and useful instrument” than any previous telescope lens.
Several people staked a variety of claims to the new artifact. Foremost among them were the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, the Swedish astronomer Samuel Klingenstierna, the London artisan John Dollond, and the English gentleman Chester Moor Hall. Detailed accounts of the complex European-wide struggle over credit for the discovery and development of the optical principles associated with the new lens appear elsewhere. In this paper, I will consider a more local dispute over who was the true inventor of this lens itself: John Dollond (who first described and patented one) or Chester Moor Hall (who may have first had one secretly made). This dispute was confined to London and erupted twice after John Dollond’s death in 1761. In both instances, Dollond’s son Peter argued for his father’s right to the invention, Dollond’s rivals for Hall’s. In the 1760s Peter faced virtually the entire London optical community and secured his father’s claim with a complicated series of lawsuits; in 1789 he faced his own brother in law, Jesse Ramsden, who resurrected Hall’s claim with a short letter to the Royal Society. So successful was this letter that virtually all historians have taken its correctness to be self evident and casually state that Hall was the original inventor. That the evidence for this claim is very problematic is one thing I hope to demonstrate. Equally importantly, I will show how two eighteenth century artisans, John and Peter Dollond, did much more than make and sell lenses from their London shop. By publishing scientific papers, procuring and defending a legal patent, and writing polemical letters, they also employed a sophisticated set of strategies over several decades to acquire and maintain their sole claim to the new refracting lens.
Wilhelm Struve and the Great Refractor of Dorpat.
Struve was born in 1793 in Holstein, on the borders of Denmark and Germany. He grew up during the Napoleonic wars and the consequent unsettled state of Europe led to his travelling to Dorpat (modern Tartu) in Estonia (then a province of the Russian Empire) for his university studies. In deference to his father's wishes, his first studies were in classics and philosophy, but he later studied astronomy and was awarded the degrees of master and doctor simultaneously in 1813, for his determination of the longitude and latitude of the new Dorpat Observatory. He was then appointed first extraordinary and then ordinary Professor of Astronomy, and remained in Dorpat until 1839.
In those days, astronomers were often surveyors; Struve had practised surveying from his student days and, as professor, conducted an important survey of Livland (parts of modern Estonia and Latvia) and, later, a major geodetic measurement of an arc of the meridian through Dorpat, from Hammerfest to the mouth of the Danube --an arc of 25 degrees and 20 minutes, about 3000 km long. His willingness to undertake such a project certainly contributed to his success in obtaining government funds for "pure" astronomical research.
Struve visited Munich in 1820 to order instruments for his surveying and met Fraunhofer and saw the achromatic refractor of 9 Paris inches (9.5 English inches) aperture that the latter was building. Struve imnmediately wanted this instrument and was able to persuade the University and Imperial Government to finance its purchase. The "Great Refractor" arrived in Dorpat in Spetember 1824. By February of the following year, Struve had begun his census of double stars and he completed it in February 1827, despite the Refractor having been out of commission in the late fall of 1825, and his own commitment to surveying in the field during the summer months of 1826. The work on double stars led Struve to believe that it might be possible to measure the parallax of Vega by careful comparison of its position with that of its faint (optical) companion. He began observations with the Great Refractor, for this purpose, in 1835, publishing a preliminary value in 1837 and a final value in October 1839 (after Bessel's successful determination of the parallax of 61 Cygni).
After Struve's departure for Pulkovo, in 1839, Dorpat Observatory declined in relative importance, despite the efforts of his successor Maedler and, in our own century, Oepik. Today, the telescope is maintained as a museum piece in the building in which it was used, but there are fears that the objective was damaged during the unrest following the Russian revolution.
J.S. Plaskett and his 1.8-m Telescope.
John Stanley Plaskett was born in Ontario in 1865, the eldest son of a farmer. Because his father died relatively young, Plaskett had the responsibility of the farm and of helping to care for his younger brothers and sister for some years, but later worked for the Edison Company in Schenectady. He returned to Canada and became chief technician in the physics laboratory of the University of Toronto, combining his work with study for a bachelor's degree in physics, which he completed in 1899, after he had already turned 30. He was then offered a position at the newly founded Dominion Observatory in Ottawa. His chief work there was the determination of stellar radial velocities with the 15-inch refractor. This work gave him an international reputation and thus he was able to draw on the support, particularly of American astronomers, when he proposed that Canada should build a telescope of at least 60 inches aperture to extend the kind of work he had been doing in Ottawa. Support from the Canadian scientific community was conditional on the best site in the country being chosen and, after W.E. Harper had been sent to a selection of sites across the country, Victoria was chosen for the quality of its seeing and the small diurnal range of temperature. (Even in those days, some argued that a site outside Canada should be chosen, but the days of extra-territorial telescopes were still to come.)
Despite the intervention of the First World War, the telescope was built and put into operation in May, 1918. For six months, it was the world's largest working telescope, being relegated in November by the Mount Wilson 100-inch. Radial-velocity work was its principal concern for many years, especially as applied to spectroscopic binaries and to the problem of determining galactic structure and rotation. This latter problem was tackled by Plaskett himself, together with J. A. Pearce. The results, published in 1935, remained standard until the development of radio astronomy enabled them to be superseded in the late 1960s. However, some direct photography was undertaken at the Newtonian focus, principally by Helen Hogg, who began her studies of globular clusters here, while her husband Frank was a member of the staff.
Although telescopes of 1.8-m aperture are no longer considered "large", there is still plenty of work for them to do, especially if they are equipped with modern instrumentation and detectors. In February 1974, a new Cer-Vit mirror was completed for the telescope, and updating has continued through the years. The 72-inch or 1.8-m telescope, now officially named the "Plaskett Telescope" is still actively used in research work, including once again direct imaging, and still appears to have a long useful life ahead of it. Perhaps it is not quite an "antique" telescope, but it is certainly an historic one.
MEETING OF THE ANTIQUE TELESCOPE SOCIETY, OCTOBER 2000
ABSTRACTS OF PRESENTATIONS TO THE SESSIONS
History of California Astronomy Exhibit at Chabot Observatory.
One of the exhibitions at the recently-opened Chabot Space & Science Center is an exhibit titled History of California Astronomy. The exhibit, done in association with the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, features some extraordinary historic instruments.
The exhibit include the 3 1/2-inch Brashear refractor presented to Andrew Carnegie, a 10-inch Brashear reflector, Lick Observatory's Lick Radial Velocity Spectrogram Measuring Machine and the New Mills Spectrograph a Porter Garden Telescope (you will want to hear about Chabot's plans in regards to this instrument!), Albert Einstein's personal refractor, a Lower Schmidt, a Fitz 7 3/8-inch Comet Seeker, and one of the first telescope mirrors ever aluminized. The exhibit is George Ritchey's 24-inch reflector.
The paper will cover the exhibit and initial public response, as well as activities being prepared in concert with History of California Astronomy.
From Crossley to Carter: The life and times of an historic 9 Inch Cooke Telescope.
This Cooke refractor started life as a 9.33-in made for Edward Crossley in 1867, and during the 1870s, 80s and 90s was used by Crossley and Gledhill for a variety of observational programs. In 1896 the original objective was replaced by one of Taylor's new photovisual objectives, with a clear aperture of 9 inches.
After Crossley's death in 1905 the telescope was acquired by the Reverend Dr David Kennedy of Meeanee, New Zealand. There is was used mainly for cometary photography, and many impressive images of 1P/Halley were obtained.
In 1923 the telescope was sold to the Wellington City Council in New Zealand's capital, and for the next 17 years was used by local amateur astronomers for a range of observations. In addition, regular public viewing sessions were introduced.
With the founding of the nearby Carter Observatory in 1941 the telescope was transferred to this new national facility, where it has served ever since as the mainstay of a popular public astronomy program. Given the Observatory's evolving research strategy, little attempt has been made to use this historic instrument for serious observational work.
Bernhard Schmidt: A Life in Optics
Bernhard Schmidt, the inventor of the Schmidt camera, was a most eccentric and misanthropic individual who produced excellent optics despite laboring under the disability of having only one hand. Presented here is a summary of his life from his birth in Estonia in 1879 to his death in Hamburg, Germany in 1935. An account of the invention of his famous camera will also be given.
Thomas R. Williams
A new tool for astronomers: The early history of the Schmidt optical system in America.
As soon as Walter Baade revealed the dramatic performance of Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt's wide-field optical system to astronomers at Mt. Wilson in 1931, news of this innovative development spread rapidly in the United States. Astronomers at Mt. Wilson benefited from the extensive optical shop and well-qualified optical workers already employed there on the Hale telescope and other projects and exploited the new system at an early date. However directors and astronomers at other observatories, seeking a low-cost way to take advantage of the superior new optical design, adopted unconventional strategies for procurement of the Schmidt system components. As a result, amateur telescope makers and optical workers on the margins of the profession were able to contribute to the spread of this new technology. This paper will discuss the interactions of amateur and professional astronomers and optical workers during the 1930s and 1940s to illuminate the exciting period during which Schmidt technology was first pressed into the service of astronomy at observatories other than Mt. Wilson/Palomar.