John Dobson

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John Dobson

John Lowry Dobson (September 14, 1915 – Burbank, California, January 15, 2014) was an astronomy disseminator, known for being the author and promoter of the design of a reflecting telescope Low cost portable newtonian named after him, the Dobson telescope The design is considered revolutionary because it allows amateur astronomers to build telescopes of considerable size.

It was also popular thanks to its efforts to promote the knowledge of astronomy (and its unorthodox views on cosmology) through public lectures, including its events organized to spread the word “astronomy on the sidewalks” (“sidewalk” astronomy “). John Dobson was co-founder of the astronomical amateur group “San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers” (Astronomers of the San Francisco Sidewalks).

John_Dobson’s Biography

John Dobson was born in Beijing, China. His maternal grandfather founded Peking University, his mother was dedicated to music, and his father was a professor of zoology at the University. He moved with his family to San Francisco, California in 1927. His father accepted a teaching position at Lowell High School, where he was a teacher until the 1950s. Dobson spent 23 years in a monastery, after which he became more active in the promotion of astronomy.

His time in the monastery

As a teenager, John Dobson became a “belligerent” atheist, noting that: “I realized that these two notions can not arise from the same being:” Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. “and …” if you’re not a good boy, you’ll go to hell. “They have to be deceiving us, so I declare myself an atheist, a belligerent atheist If someone starts a conversation on the subject, I behave like an atheist belligerent. “

Over time, Dobson became interested in the universe and its functioning. He graduated in chemistry from the University of Berkeley in 1943, working in the E. O. Lawrence laboratory. In 1944 he attended a conference of a Vedānta mystic, who in his own words, “revealed to him a world he had never seen.” That same year he joined the monastery of the Vedānta Society of San Francisco, becoming a monk of the order religious Ramakrishna. “One of John’s responsibilities in the monastery was to reconcile astronomy with the teachings of Vedānta, which led him to build telescopes there, which he located near the monastery, fascinating the neighbors who gathered around him.” < / p>

Dobson’s dedication to building telescopes was motivated in part by his interest in better understanding the universe, and partly by inspiring others with curiosity about the cosmos. To this end, he often offered assistance and information about his work to people outside the monastery. The construction of telescopes was not part of the curriculum of the monastery, so much of their correspondence was written in a kind of personal code in order to attract less attention. For example, in his letters a telescope was called a “geranium,” and a “potted geranium” referred to a telescope in a tube and with a rocker shaft, while a “geranium in bloom” referred to a telescope whose mirror had already been metallicized.

Finally, John Dobson was given the option of leaving the construction of telescopes or leaving the order. He chose to stop the construction of telescopes in order to remain in the monastery. But one day another monk accused him unjustly of missing his commitment, and informed the leader of the monastery. Dobson was expelled in 1967. However, he subsequently stated that the accusation was not the true cause of his expulsion. The real reason, he argued, was the result of a misunderstanding. The leader read a document that was supposedly written by Dobson, in which the reconciliation of science with Vedānta doctrine was contradicted and the leader thought that Dobson had rejected his teachings Template: Work cited needed

Amateur astronomy

After leaving the order in 1967, Dobson co-founded in 1968 (along with Bruce Sams and Jeffery Roloff) the “San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers”, an amateur astronomy organization that aims to popularize astronomy among the citizenship. Sams, who had built a large telescope, was unable to join the only local club existing at the time, the “San Francisco Amateur Astronomers”, which prompted him to organize with Dobsosn the new organization. It was also at this time that the simple design of Dobson’s telescope, which came to be known as the Dobsonian telescope, became known after he began teaching the public how to make their own telescopes.

Subsequently, the Vedanta Society of Southern California of Hollywood requested their collaboration, spending two months each year teaching the telescope and teaching cosmology classes at the institution. Each year he spent two more months in his home in San Francisco, and most of the time he spent traveling as a guest of numerous astronomical societies, where he talked about the construction of his telescope, urban astronomy, and his views on cosmology and the scientific community. Dobson claimed that the Big Bang model was not scientifically defensible, and instead advocated a non-standard cosmology; based on a stationary “recycling model” of the universe, where matter in the universe is subject to a process of permanent expansion, but is also “recycled” over time through a quantum tunneling process. In an essay entitled “Origins”, Dobson also argued that such a universe could allow life to be ubiquitous and always present.

In 2004, the Crater Lake Institute honored John Dobson with his Annual Award for Public Service Excellence for “being a pioneer in amateur astronomy in national parks and forests, where curious minds and dark skies enter. in contact. ”

In 2005, the Smithsonian magazine included John Dobson among the 35 people who had contributed a significant and original achievement since the publication was founded.


Dobson died on January 15, 2014 at the “Providence / Saint Joseph Medical Center” in Burbank, California, at 98 years of age.

More Facts about John Dobson

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