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William Dawes

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Hi all,

I recently discovered that I live very close to where an eminent astronomer used to live, called William Rutter Dawes.

If the surname's familiar, that's because he is the originator of the Dawes Limit, used to determine the practical limit on resolving power for a telescope. He also has a crater named after him on the Moon, also one of Saturn's rings, and received the RSA Gold Medal in 1855. So, quite a significant figure!

I was intrigued when I discovered that the telescope that he had in his observatory (the hole through which it poked is still visible in aerial shots of the house) is still in use at Cambridge University. So, I attended one of their night-time lectures and by special permission, was able to see the scope and take some snaps. It's called the Thorrowgood scope and you can read more about it here: https://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/about/thorrowgood.telescope

And here are some of the shots I took!






Given that my house dates back to 1695 I think it's a virtual certainty that Dawes must have at least walked past it on many occasions, and who knows, might even have been in it! And here I am, 150 years later, practising astronomy (in my own small way) about a minute's walk away. 

Just thought you might find this of interest. I find it quite inspiring! :)

Cheers, Brendan

Edited by BrendanC
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  • 2 weeks later...

Fascinating! Thanks for providing this and the link to the story of the Thorrowgood telescope.

On a related note, the Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago was purchased by a foundation which is refurbishing the grounds with plans to be open to the public.




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