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
Date made
patent holder
Dobson, John L.
Coulter Optical Co.
Place Made
United States: California, Idyllwild
overall: 70 in x 18 in x 19 in; 177.8 cm x 45.72 cm x 48.26 cm
ID Number
accession number
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Data Source
National Museum of American History