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Grant number like: RZ-50206-04

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Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum (Chicago, IL 60605-2403)
Marvin Paul Bolt (Project Director: November 2003 to March 2007)

Collaborative Research
Research Programs

$44,810 (approved)
$44,810 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2004 – 6/30/2006

Widening the Scope of Knowledge

Creation of an electronic database which would provide technical measurements of the 17th- and 18th-century telescopes to be examined in this project. Articles stemming from the project research would also be submitted to history of science journals.

In portraying the telescope's significant roles in astronomy, navigation, surveying, and military history, standard chronicles focus on the technical details of its optical evolution. We believe that these accounts ignore key contextual elements impacting the telescope's development, and thus misrepresent its history. Our proposal contains two components to correct this history and to address its attendant historiography. First, we propose to make technical measurements, calculations, and images of 17th and 18th century telescope optical components that will enable us to provide experimental data about their optical quality. Second, we propose to view the heavens through as many historic telescopes as possible in order to gauge directly the astronomical viewing quality of these artifacts. By providing a more informed history of the optical evolution of telescopes, including evidence that the technical limitations of early telescopes are less problematic than is usually claimed, we can demonstrate the importance of social and contextual influences on the development of telescopes and on its resulting histories.