Odyssey 1 Dobsonian Reflecting Telescope

This is a Dobsonian-type reflecting telescope. It was made commercially in the 1980s as part of the "Dobsonian revolution" in amateur astronomy.
John Dobson began developing this form of telescope in 1956. At the time he was living in a monastery in San Francisco, working as a gardener. Although he had a degree in chemistry, Dobson had always been interested in spiritual issues. Seeking a way to directly experience a fundamental reality, he became obsessed with seeing the "deep sky"—the distant realm of nebula and galaxies.
Unfortunately, to actually see these astronomical objects required large telescopes that were generally only available to astronomers and were too expensive for average people, and especially for Dobson, who had taken a vow of poverty.
Undeterred, Dobson began teaching himself telescope making. In time he developed a new telescope design and a new approach to telescope making. Compared to the typical amateur telescope of the time, what came to be known as the "Dobsonian" telescopes were large, easy to use, inexpensive, and portable. They were also easy to make. The mirrors were ground from simple porthole glass. The mounts were made from common construction materials. Although comparatively crude, these strange new telescopes worked. Thrilled by his success, Dobson put them on wheels and pulled them around the streets of San Francisco, offering to show the wonders of the sky to anyone he met.
Around 1967 Dobson helped found the Sidewalk Astronomers. They became famous for touring the United States, setting up their telescopes (affectionately known as "light buckets") and inviting passers-by to look through them. Telescope design continues to evolve and today the majority of amateur telescopes (like this one) are precise and commercially made. However, many active amateur astronomers credit an early encounter with a Dobsonian for starting their interest in astronomy and changing the way they view the sky.
Currently not on view
Object Name
reflecting telescope, Dobsonian
Date made
patent holder
Dobson, John L.
Coulter Optical Co.
overall: 70 in x 18 in x 19 in; 177.8 cm x 45.72 cm x 48.26 cm
Place Made
United States: California, Idyllwild
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Measuring & Mapping
Sports & Leisure
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Visitor Comments

11/14/2012 1:10:34 PM
It would be nice to mention Jim Jacobsen, the owner of Coulter Optical (deceased) as the first manufacturer of commercial Dobs. The Odessey series was his work, most done oput of a small optical shop in Idyllwild, California.
11/14/2012 1:11:31 PM
Additional information on James A. Braginton (Jacobson) and Coulter Optical can be found here: http://www.rca-omsi.org/news/gazette06/2006_11.pdf.
2/4/2015 2:28:30 PM
Dave Hall
I have an original Odyssey 1 from 1980, the 13.1" model. The "additional info" link above does not work any more, but the information still exists at: http://www.rosecityastronomers.org/news/2006/2006_11.pdf and starts at page 7.
7/19/2013 10:11:39 AM
Arlene Trask
I am exciteed to learn about this telescope. My husband bought one in the 1980's and still has it. Would this telescope still be useful for the amateur astronomer or is it a "white elephant"?
7/19/2013 10:43:57 AM
I have one of these telescopes! I bought it at a reasonable price during an astronomy class for educators back in 1993. I have used it for over 18 years in science classes, summer science camps, cub scouts, backyard stargazing, and family fun! It has been an amazing teaching tool and keeps on providing amazing views of the heavens!! T
3/31/2016 1:08:38 PM
Is there any specs. on the construction of the box, I have acquired an Odyssey 1 telescope and would like to rebuild it using oak veneer plywood. The box is in bad shape and I would like to make a truss design, and redo the mirror holder. This is my first redo of a Dob scope. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
8/18/2016 2:54:28 PM
Ray Spreier
I have an Odyssey 1 as well. Purchased back in the early 90s. My kids got to know the night sky looking through dad's big red light bucket. I do a lot of lecturing and star parties for a local observatory and other education programs, and despite owning three other, much higher-tech scopes, the big dob remains my go-to and favorite scope due to the simplicity and ease of use.
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