Book 193: Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass

Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass by Marvin Bolt

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Finished reading on December 12th, 2015

Rating: for a telescope enthusiast: 9/10,  for a general reader: 7/10

I have decided to try and get my hands on as many books about the history of telescopes and historic telescopes and their makers as possible, and this book is going to be one in a series of books.

This book was published when an exhibition of the same name was opened at Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum. You can certainly tell from the descriptions of the objects – they give the basic gist of the object and/or it’s maker without going into long tales about it – although I would have liked that about equally as much as I like shorter descriptions (bite sized pieces of information on very beautiful scientific instruments).

I found this book quite enjoyable – but historical telescopes are part of my job, so I can see how it might not appeal to everyone as it functions as an exhibition catalog. In case of museums the objects I enjoy looking at the most are telescopes, so it was very interesting. The info about reproductions of some images from astronomer’s works was also quite interesting, but rather general.

Most of the telescopes in the book are very elaborate with draw-tube telescopes,that even use  ivory and even platinum on the grip and most were probably never used for science – I think that shows an interesting side to this invention – it can be a professional science instrument but also a luxury item.

I had never read about trumpet-shaped telescopes before, so that was something new, and also the fact that some quite small telescopes had several integrated eyepieces that you could switch between very easily and some even enabled observing the Sun through a special filter, was fascinating.

Book 145: An Acre of Glass by J. B. Zirker

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An Acre of Glass by J. B. Zirker
Finished reading on June 30, 2014
Rating: 8/10

If you’ve ever had the need to be able to say something about each and every large or historically significant telescope, then this is the book for you!

Occasionally I feel that kind of need and because of that I really liked reading this book as it starts from about 19th century telescopes and continues to some telescopes that are still in the planning phase (and where so also at the time when the book was published in 2005).

It was interesting as there are many telescopes and telescope makers that you can read about, although the book concentrates (or was it just an illusion I had?) on mostly telescopes in the US, or that were built and used by Americans, with a few mentions of some European telescopes. Which is understandable to a limit since they built most of the large telescopes last century.

Also it’s not just about optical telescopes, radio telescopes have some space in the book and infrared telescopes as well, and even some space telescopes like Hubble, Spitzer, Herschel and the not-yet-launched James Webb Space Telescope (no X-ray or neutrino telescopes though)

In addition to some of the stories of how the telescopes were built and how the money was acquired for the building, you can also read a bit about the science and art of telescope building and astronomy as well.

So in general it’s the kind of book that you’d recommend to someone who’d be really interested in cars but for some reason they’re interested in big tubes with tons of glass in one or both ends and how they can be moved or used.

I love books about telescopes. And telescopes. 🙂

Here’s an extra for those who like things like these (because I like the music and the optimism and grandeur of it all)..

Book 66: Discoverers of the Universe by Michael Hoskin

PIMG_9783Discoverers of the Universe by Michael Hoskin

Finished reading on August 15, 2013

Rating 9/10

“Discoverers of the Universe” tells the story of William and Caroline Herschels life and work. William Herschel is most famous for his discovery of the planet Uranus, which he actually named Georgium Sidus, or George’s star in honour the then reigning British monarch. Uranus, that’s what most people know. William Herschel was also a telescope maker, he made the best reflectors in his time and also the biggest, he observed binary stars, planets and their satellites, nebulae and a lot of other objects.

Caroline Herschel was William’s younger sister, who became William’s assistant – marked down his observations and did a lot of paperwork. But she did her own observations as well – she discovered nine comets and was one of the first female astronomers to get paid for her work.

This book tells it all in detail, about where and when they lived, how much Herschel actually used his 40 foot reflector, how until middle age Herschel had been a musician etc.

It’s a wonderful book, and I’m sure would be nteresting even if you haven’t heard of William Herschel before.