Ian Stargazer: The Life and Times of the Telescope

Front Cover
Allen & Unwin, 2007 - Science - 358 pages
The telescope is literally the world's most far-reaching invention. It can unlock nature's secrets in the remotest corners of the universe. It is a time machine, allowing us to look billions of years into the past for answers to some of our most profound questions.

In its 400-year history, the telescope has progressed from a crudely fashioned tube holding a couple of spectacle lenses to colossal structures housed in space-age cathedrals.

The history of the telescope is a rich story of ingenuity and perseverance involving some of the most colourful figures of the scientific world. It begins in ancient times, gathers momentum through the Renaissance, with the first recorded telescope bursting onto the scene in the middle of a diplomatic crisis in seventeenth century Holland, and takes us to the limits of space with the cutting-edge telescopes of today.

Written by Fred Watson, one of Australia's best-loved astronomers, Stargazer brings the story of the telescope to a general readership for the first time.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - T.Rex - LibraryThing

This is an excellent volume on the History of the telescope by a well-known astronomer. The volume traces the origin, evolution and development of this most essential astronomical instrument. The book is written in a lively and interesting style. Read full review

STARGAZER: The Life and Times of the Telescope

User Review  - Kirkus

The story of telescope makers and their instruments, told with gleeful professionalism by the astronomer in charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory.Watson opens this pleasing history with a little ... Read full review

Selected pages


1 Power Telescopes
2 The Eyes of Denmark
3 Enigma
4 Enlightenment
5 Flowering
6 Evolution
7 On Reflection
8 Mirror Image
13 Heartbreaker
14 Dream Optics
15 Silver and Glass
16 Walking with Galaxies
Notes and Sources

9 Scandal
10 The Way to Heaven
11 Astronomers Behaving Badly
12 Leviathans
The Worlds Great Telescopes

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Page 239 - I looked into the spectroscope. No spectrum such as I expected! A single bright line only! At first I suspected some displacement of the prism, and that I was looking at a reflection of the illuminated slit from one of its faces. This thought was scarcely more than momentary; then the true interpretation flashed upon me. The light of the nebula was monochromatic, and so, unlike any other light I had as yet subjected to prismatic examination, could not be extended out to form a complete spectrum.
Page 236 - And in order thereto, having darkened my chamber, and made a small hole in my window-shuts, to let in a convenient quantity of the sun's light, I placed my prism at its entrance, that it might be thereby refracted to the opposite wall. It was at first...
Page 99 - our astronomical observer" at a salary of 100 per annum, his duty being "forthwith to apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying the tables of the motions of the heavens and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting the art of navigation.
Page 96 - Here out of the window it was a most pleasant sight to see the City from one end to the other with a glory about it, so high was the light of the bonfires, and so thick round the City, and the bells rang everywhere.
Page 239 - The riddle of the nebulae was solved. The answer, which had come to us in the light itself, read: Not an aggregation of stars, but a luminous gas.
Page 72 - ... the brimme of the gibbous parts towards the upper corner appeare luminous parts like starres much brighter then the rest and the whole brimme along, lookes like unto the Description of Coasts in the dutch bookes of voyages, in the full she appeares like a tarte that my Cooke made me the last Weeke. here a vaine of bright stuffe, and there of darke, and so confusedlie al over. I must confesse I can see none of this without my cylinder.
Page 236 - I procured me a triangular glass -prism, to try therewith the celebrated phenomena of colours. And in order thereto, having darkened my chamber, and made a small hole in my window-shuts, to let in a convenient quantity of the sun's light, I placed my prism at its entrance, that it might be thereby refracted to the opposite wall.
Page 294 - A geometrical practise, named pantometria, divided into three bookes, Longimetro, Planimetra and Stereometria, containing rules manifolde for mensuration of all lines, superficies and solides : with sundry straunge conclusions both by instrument and without, and also by perspective glasses, to set forth the true description or exact plat of an whole region : framed by Leonard Digges Gentleman, lately finished by Thomas Digges his sonne.
Page 264 - ... with the theory but unapproachable in any vacuumtube. Similarly, Adams' observations of the companion of Sirius with the Hooker telescope confirmed Eddington's prediction that matter can exist thousands of times denser than any terrestrial substance. In fact, things have reached such a point that a far-sighted industrial leader, whose success may depend in the long run on a complete knowledge of the nature of matter and its transformations, would hardly be willing to be limited by the feeble...
Page 226 - I consider the failure of the Melbourne reflector to have been one of the greatest calamities in the history of instrumental astronomy for, by destroying confidence in the usefulness of great reflecting telescopes, it has hindered the development of this type of instrument, so wonderfully efficient in photographic and spectroscopic work, for nearly a third of a century.

About the author (2007)

Dr Fred Watson is Astronomer-in-Charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Coonabarabran in central NSW, where he is responsible for the scientific output of Australia's largest optical telescope. Fred writes regularly for Sky + Space magazine and the annual Yearbook of Astronomy. His articles have also appeared many well-known journals, including New Scientist, Sky + Telescope and Astronomy Now. Fred is a frequent broadcaster, and has a regular spot on ABC Local radio.

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