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Books About Building Telescopes

The Creation of the Anglo-Austrailian Observatory, S.C.B Gascoigne et al., Cambridge University Press 1990
This is a very complete story about the agreements between two countries and the cooperative effort it took to create the wonderful observatory that now exists in Australia.  The personal, political and economic factors are described in detail.  Anyone interested in the creation of a great scientific facility will find this book fascinating.

James Lick's Monument, Helen Wright, Cambridge University Press 1987
This book takes on the tone of an adventure.  The sub-title, "The Saga of Captain Richard Floyd and the building of the Lick Observatory" gives the flavor of struggle, adventure and resolution of the many problems that had to be overcome to build this famous observatory.  The book outlines a personal adventure.

Yerkes Observatory 1892-1950, Donald E. Osterbrock, University of Chicago Press 1997
This book carries the sub-title "The Birth, Near Death, and Resurrection of a Scientific Research Institution."   This is a true outline of the major sections of the book.  The long history of the observatory and mainly of the important astronomers who built it and ran it from the beginning through its hard times and later glory years is portrayed with clarity and charm.  Anyone interested in the history not only of this observatory but in the influence that its many astronomer stars had on the development of astronomy in America should put this book on the must read list.

The Perfect Machine, Ronald Florence, Harper Collins 1994
This book is about the building of the Palomar Telescope, an instrument that captured the imagination of a generation of astronomers and of the public as well.  This is a wonderful book which is full of facts about people and projects.  It has the aura of a detective story.  It is loaded with personalities, technology and the long struggle to overcome the difficulties of creating this great instrument over a period of almost 20 years.  This book is one of the best, if not the best about astronomical adventures.

The Hubble Wars, Eric J. Chaisson, Harper Collins 1994
The saga of the building of the Hubble telescope has a very different flavor from most other books about the history and building of great astronomical instruments.  In this book the innards of Astro-politics is reveled in almost more detail than you might want to know.  Of especial interest is the exposition of the infighting among individual astronomers and astronomical groups about the who, what and why of the design, about the construction and particularly about the use of this unique instrument.  It is surprising how personal and nasty scientists can be.  This modern adventure should be read by anyone with an interest in the present and future of astronomy.

A Short History of Observatories, Marian Card Donnelly, University of Oregon Books 1973.  Here is a small book which is a delight for anyone interested in how observatories got started and and how they took the shape they now have.  Official observatories, buildings devoted to astronomical observation, started in the 17th century with what were nothing more than observing platforms.  As instruments got larger and more demanding of the spaces in which they were installed, the buildings took shapes that were dictated mor my engineering rather than esthetics.  This book gives a fine set of  diagrams and plates showing some 70 or so buildings from the 17th century through modern times.  A very nice book.

In Quest of Telescopes, Martin Cohen, Sky Publishing 1980.  This book is about the travels of an astronomer from location to locaton with comments about using a variety of telescope at a variety of locations.  The comments are interesting in the sense that they describe one persons experiences.  The overall structure of the book is puzzeling.  The locations are arbitrary and the descriptions more like a personal journey that a coherent discussion.  The pictures included are equally strange.  They are not very professional and give unusual views of equipment, some of which make no sense in the narrative. These are the meanderings of a meandering astronomer with no clear goal that I can detect.  Sort of a quest for a golden grail not found.

Unusual  Telescopes, Peter L. Manly, Cambridge 1991.  This is a really fun, fun book to read.  It is, as might be expected, about unusual telescope designs over the past two centuries.  Though the designs vary from the bizare to the very strange indeed, there are a lot of interesting ideas to peruse.  A nice book which I found enjoyable.

Small Astronomical Observatories, Patrick Moore ed, Springer Verlag 1996.  For anyone thinking about designing a small observatory this book is an essential.  It is full of ideas, pictures and descriptions of a great variety of small observatories. A lot of nice ideas and experiences are outlined.

Reflecting Telescope Optics Vols. I and II, R. N. Wilson, Springer Verlag 1996-1999.  These two volumes contain everything you might want to know about reflecting telescopes. There are sections on the history, development, optical theory, optical production,  mechanics, baffling, attachments, active optics and more about reflecting telescopes. This is an incredible set of books which will be of interest to those who are deeply interested in the details of what makes fine reflecting telescopes work.  Everything from the original telescopes of Newton and Herschel to the most modern Cassegrain telescopes and their variations, even including the ESO, are discussed in detail. The book has extensive references. But be warned if you have problems understanding mathematics and optical theory like the Hamilton-Seidel third order theory of aberrations, there will be sections of the book that are not accessible. Even then there are descriptions of modern telescopes, especially the ESO, that are fascinating. An expensive set ($100 each) but well worth the trouble if you do the digging required to reach an understanding of modern reflecting telescopes.

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