Monday, 2 March 2009

Friday March 2, 1894

Mr Donough left, having fixed dew cap adaptors &c on 28in telescope

William Christie, Astronomer Royal

RH says..... This entry makes it evident that Christie's Journal entries could be written in advance or retrospect. Here he is recording work done at the Observatory, even though on this day he was away in Sandwich.
A copy of the letter to the Admiralty that Christie mentioned in yesterday's entry has survived in the Cambridge archives, with a copy of Thompson's letter regarding the donation of £5000 for a new telescope. This letter, dated 25 February 1894, makes interesting reading, as Thompson outlines his reasons for his generosity. The comments about astro-photography and what could be expected from public funding are particularly interesting. Also worth noting is his view that, despite all Christie's tinkering with the lens, the 28-inch telescope was best left simply as a visual telescope.
"As you know I have been desirous for some time past, that you should have a telescope for photographic purposes ... of far higher power than you have hitherto possessed. I had the pleasure of offering you one of my own which I believe you found useful, when I gave up my Observatory at Mount Side three years ago.
But Greenwich will be wholly unable to maintain the astronomical fame and traditions of the past achieved by our country, unless it has a far finer instrument for photographic work than it possesses. For the means of astronomical discovery ... must henceforth certainly be sought to a very great extent, in the power & projection[?] of this method of drawing the heavens.
I fear you are not likely to obtain what is really essential from the public purse just now: I venture, therefore, from my strong conviction of the importance of the subject and my deep interest in the advance of Astronomical Science, to offer you at my own charge, the cost of such an instrument as you think will render your equipment in this direction complete and enable you to devote your new and noble 28 inch refractor solely to the purpose to which it is best adapted. After much talk and some enquiry, we have I believe estimated this as amounting to Five thousand pounds, to cover all expenses."

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