RASC History Committee: A Walking Tour of Optical History

Event Date: 
Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - 20:30 to 22:00 EDT

A Walking Tour of Optical History -- Artifacts and Anecdotes from the Astronomical Lyceum 

Presented by: John W. Briggs, Magdalena, New Mexico, USA 

RASC History Committee

Pioneers in optics allowed a revolutionary ascendancy in astronomy in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Astronomical Lyceum in New Mexico, originally built in 1936 as a theater and gymnasium, now houses a collection of telescopes, optics, archives, and literature from this ascendancy.  Its volunteer staff finds the artifacts and associated history surprisingly engaging for visitors of all interest levels.  The presentation will include unusual items, large and small, created by some of the America's greatest early optical artists, including Henry and Harry Fitz, Alvan Clark and Sons, Carl and Robert Lundin, John A. Brashear, George Willis Ritchey, and the pioneer of astronomical spectroscopy and photography, Lewis Morris Rutherfurd.  The collection includes artifacts originating right up through the Space Age, including from the amateur telescope making movement and its surprising influence.  While time allows only an overview, the presentation hopes to remind participants how the history of science and technology can be powerfully engaging and interesting for essentially anyone when offered in the right spirit.  In some cases, the written remembrances of pioneers spell out the inspiration they had, often taken from the beauty of Nature.  Arguably no one was more eloquent in such words than Albert A. Michelson.  In other cases, the artistry in the artifacts themselves is a similar testimony, and intense pride-of-workmanship is dramatized by how instruments were signed.  It is necessary and worthwhile that we and our students remain aware of these inspirations -- they are all lessons to be learned.

This talk will take place Tuesday, April 6th, 2021 @ 8:30 pm EDT

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