There’s no questioning it; John Dobson is one of the most famous astronomers alive today. But even though you may be interested in astronomy, you still might not know exactly who John Dobson is – even though you’ve likely used one of his telescopes in the past.
That’s right – John Dobson is credited with creating the Dobsonian telescope. If you’re interested in astronomy, then you’ll already know what the Dobsonian is and how it’s become one of the most popular types of telescope today.
Dobson was born in Beijing, though his parents moved to San Francisco when John was still young. Dobson was already in his fifties, after spending 27 years in a monastery as a younger man, when he founded the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers in the late sixties. As the name suggests, Dobson was pivotal in enabling the everyman to build their own telescopes.
Before Dobson, amateur astronomy wasn’t common as the materials and telescopes themselves were particularly expensive and unaffordable to ‘sidewalk astronomers’. Dobson taught the other members of the club how to build their own telescope out of cheaper materials.
For example, instead of using expensive fiberglass for tubes inside the telescope, Dobson used Sonotubes – most commonly used to hold cement. This was a much cheaper material, but proved to be as effective as the fiberglass – for just a portion of the price.
It was after creating these telescopes with other members of his club that the telescope itself was dubbed as the Dobsonian. Rather than an invention, the Dobsonian is generally credited to John Dobson as a combination of other ideas from other astronomers – Dobson was the first to combine all of these ideas together.
So, it only makes sense than nowadays, a Dobsonian is a go too for many young astronomers who are looking to get started. When looking for a new telescope, it’s often best to start with a Dobsonian if you’re on a budget. A Dobsonian will allow you much higher magnification at a lower price, which is extremely important, especially when comparing it to other types of telescope like reflectors and cassegrains.
Overall, it’s clear to see that although in the present Dobson may not be regarded as highly as other astronomers like Newton, in hundreds of years people will look back and realise his contribution to the growth of astronomy within society.