I became interested in astronomy 10 years-old when I saw Saturn through a telescope at my local astronomy society. As a youngster interested in astronomy, cash was in limited supply so as I grew older, my parents helped to subsidize an attempt at making my own telescope. It was a 15 centimeter Dobsonian Newtonian reflecting telescope.
The "Newtonian reflector" phrase describes the optical design of the instrument, while the term "Dobsonian" refers to the style of the mount. It was a beautifully simple style of mount that allowed even me as a young teenager a chance at making one myself out of wood.
Little did I realize at the time that the man who invented it was himself an amateur astronomer.
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John Dobson was born in China on Sept. 14, 1915, and his family moved to California in 1927. There he spent 23 years in a monastery even though as a teen he was a self-proclaimed 'belligerent atheist.' He achieved a Masters Degree in Chemistry in 1943 at the age of 28 and just a year later became a monk of the Ramakrishna Order.
Because of his growing interest in the Universe, he was tasked with reconciling astronomy with the teachings of the Order. This ultimately led to him developing an interest in building simple telescopes through which he would share the views of the heavens with neighbors of the monastery.
His sideline interest in telescope building led him to communicate with others outside the monastery that were interested in his work and for this, he developed a code to attract less attention. Instead of referring to telescopes, he wrote about 'geraniums' instead; a 'potted geranium' was a telescope that was fitted to its rocker box (part of the Dobsonian mount) and a 'geranium in bloom' was a telescope that had an aluminumized mirror.
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Clearly his passion was elsewhere, so he was forced to choose between the monastery or his telescopes. Thankfully for the rest of the world, he chose the latter.