Tolles Refracting Telescope

Tolles Refracting Telescope

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Telescopes with a short focus and wide field of view are known as comet seekers. This example has an achromatic objective of 5 inches aperture, a tapered wooden tube 34 inches long, and a small finder scope. The signature on the focusing mount reads “TOLLES BOSTON.”
The "B.A. Gould" signature on the flange of the objective mount refers to the astronomer, Benjamin Apthorp Gould. In his account of a solar eclipse in August 1869, Gould noted that he had used a “somewhat peculiar” telescope that had been made for him several years since by Robert E. Tolles, “then of Canastota, N.Y. and now superintendent of the Boston Optical Works.” Gould took this telescope to Cordoba where he served as the first director of the Argentine National Observatory, and he later ordered a similar instrument for the Argentine government. Following his return to the United States, Gould gave the telescope to Seth Chandler, an astronomer who had been his assistant in the late 1860's. A Chandler descendant gave it to the Smithsonian in 1980.
Ref: “Report of Dr. Benjamin Apthorp Gould, Burlington, Iowa,” in Reports of Observations of the Total Eclipse of the Sun, August 7, 1869, p. 29-38.
D. J. Warner, “The Microscopes and Telescopes of Robert B. Tolles,” Rittenhouse 9 (1995): 65-83.
George C. Comstock, “Benjamin Apthorp Gould,” Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 17 (1922): 155-180.
W. E. Carter and M. S. Carter, “Seth Carlo Chandler, Jr.,” Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences (1995): 45-79.
Currently not on view
Object Name
comet seeker
date made
ca 1867
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
overall: 34 1/4 in x 6 7/8 in; 86.995 cm x 17.4625 cm
overall: 34 1/4 in x 6 1/2 in x 6 3/4 in; 86.995 cm x 16.51 cm x 17.145 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
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Data Source
National Museum of American History
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