Saturday, October 6, 2007

John Dobson's Legacy

I had the opportunity last night to hear John Dobson, the father of sidewalk astronomy lead a discussion with an audience of amateur astronomers and space enthusiasts. Despite being ninety-two years old Mr. Dobson demonstrated the passion and acuity of a man much younger. He spoke on his theories of the "big bang", his life in the monastery, his work building telescopes and his evangelical work bringing astronomy to the masses. Entertaining and colorful at times his frail appearance did not diminish his inner love of science and astronomy. I was impressed by his life's work, his love of the stars and his dedication to making the objects in the heavens available to all. We need more John Dobsons, more people who can take their passion for the stars and space and bring it to the masses. John Dobson dedicated his life to this cause and those of us who share that same passion must do what we can to get involved in our schools and communities to bring the heavens down to earth.

In his many years of service it's hard to know how many people John Dobson has influenced into becoming scientists and astronomers. He impressed me in the hour discussion and I'm sure many more have looked at the stars through a Dobsonian telescope and never knew the man behind the magic they were seeing. Science, wonder and amazement at space and the stars above are taking a back seat with the younger generation getting lost with the myriad of options they have to spend their time. Why Dobson's work is so important - if science isn't brought to the masses I'm afraid they won't come on their own. We all need to do what we can to help rekindle the interests in the study of space. Get involved in your local astronomy club or start an outreach program at your local high school. The future depends on it.


Sara said...

Good for people to know.

Clarke said...

I knew John Dobson in the 1970's. At the time, many of us in the amateur telescope making (ATM) community were perplexed by his following. I confess I still am. The "Dobsonian" is just a standard, Newtonian reflector on an altazimuth mount -- the sort of crude telescope that many of us ATMs started out with, then moved beyond. Dobson's legacy was primarily a negative one: he popularized low standards in the construction of amateur telescopes -- in effect, making it acceptable to be lazy. For decades before he came onto the scene, ATMs took pride in their workmanship and in their ability to produce precision optics. Now, it's all about "Dobs". RIP, ATM.