Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Yerkes Observatory...40 incher...Otto Struve [II]

Okay, "bigger is better"--sort of. And what's the connection with Otto Struve [II]. 150 years ago or so telescopes, the refractor type, were the "thing". Now, in 1847 the Harvard College Observatory had two 15" refracting of which was appropriated by Friedrich Struve [founder and director of the Pulkovo Observatory, just south of St. Petersburg and Otto[II]'s grandfather]. But the rush was on and soon the University of Chicago had an 18" refractor and the US Naval Observatory had a 26" refractor. Still think "bigger sis better"? Maybe. So Otto Struve [I], who had become Puklovo's Director in 1862, travelled to the United States to talk to the best telescope makers...Alvin Clark & Sons. A deal was struck for a 30" refractor and the goods were delivered at the Polkovo Observatory in 1885. We are getting bigger. But three years later for the Lick Observatory in California installed a 36" refractor and they held the title until 1897 when the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin put in a 40" refractor. Well, that was the limit on the "bigger is better" notion, for telescope designers were beginning to design better telescopes, the reflector type, based on Newton's invention. These telescopes didn't have to be "big" to be better for they relied on a totally different observing methodology...concentrating light on a mirrored surface and then reflected to an eye more color issues or distortions. The Pulkovo Observatory's 30" refractor continued to function until World War II when the German army shelled the Pulkovo Observatory into rubble. The 30" lens was saved, but the telescope itself is gone. Struve's grandson, Otto Struve [II] was exiled from Russia during the Civil War of 1919, and he fled to the United States. It is ironic that he rose to become director of the Yerkes Observatory, whose 40" refractor does survive, and is still the largest operable refractor in the world.

Otto Wilhelm von Struve [I] [son of Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve] [May 7th, 1819 to April 14th, 1905] had two sons: Hermann Struve [October 3rd, 1854 to August 12th, 1920] and Ludwig Struve [November 1st, 1858 to November 4th, 1920] who was the father of Otto Struve [II] [August 12th, 1897 to April 6th, 1963].

[NOTE: The notation "I" and "II" are not part of their names. I used them to differentiate between them.]

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