John Dobson, telescope designer, former monk and open source astronomy advocate, dies at 98


Moon’s up tonight, a couple days past full. Time for another close look. Always worth it. Props John.


I have a beautiful 8" Dobsonian telescope. This man’s legacy is in my home.
Thank you, John.


When I was living in the SF avenues a young guy moved in upstairs and I helped carry up a wood and tube contraption. “It’s a telescope. I built it myself. I’ll introduce you to the old guy who showed me how.” We went to the Randall Museum where JD was holding court teaching just anybody how to build a scope. While grinding and polishing the mirror is a “caveman’s job” he assured us that “there is no boo-boo we could make that must be followed by a lifetime of sorrow”. When I finished mine, Jupiter and Saturn were in the same part of the sky and perfect for evening viewing. We’d both have lines a dozen long on Fillmore St. John’s whole life glows with inspiration and watching it reflect from the awe on all those faces just kept it rolling.
If you’d like to hear his cosmology lectures (and they are fascinating) drop by here.
“A lot of telescopes depend on a motor on an equatorial mount. Mine runs on yogurt and eggs.” -JD Have telescope, will travel.


When you first start in astronomy, you’re scared you won’t be able to find anything so you get one of those computerized, GPS equipped monsters that genuflects a few times and then asks where you want to go, like a celestial cab. After you learn to find your way around in the sky, what you want is a big-ass light bucket and you’re willing to take that money spent on computer and put it into mirror.

That’s when you get a Dobsonian.

First one I ever used was a 16 inch monster that I inherited when I got my first teaching job out of graduate school. It was Dobson’s philosophy in a nutshell. Thick, cardboard tube, plywood box for a base, teflon bearings – and an awesome mirror. Put the money where it counts. Stick a 40 mm Plossl in it and the sky turned into a box of jewels.

Which I rather think was his point. Goodbye, John. Thanks for the views.


A great quote from Dobson:

The universe is mostly hydrogen and ignorance.



One night I was walking in Central Square, Cambridge, MA and saw somebody with a telescope, probably an MIT or Harvard student, showing the people the moon in front of MacDonald’s. It was a beautiful thing. But I’ve seen it happen only once.

Another night, more recently, the moon was huge and low in the night sky and nobody seemed to notice it at all. There were two kids sitting on a bench in front of Toscanini’s Ice Cream both looking at their handheld screens, cell phones, computers. I called out asking them to at least once “Look at the moon!”

Who knows if they did.

I read that as Saint John… While not the bringer of light, he is the collector of light, so I think some sort of Scientific Beatification is appropriate.

Wholly accidental, Batman!

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