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Samuel Williams (1743-1817), Harvard graduate, minister and, for several years, the Hollis Professor at Harvard, used this telescope to observe the most important astronomical event of the eighteenth century: the 1769 Transit of Venus across the face of the sun. He also used it to observe several lunar eclipses and one partial solar eclipse in the 1770s.
The "Nairne London 1.5/209 = 480" inscription on the tube means that this telescope was made by Edward Nairne (1726-1806). It also indicates that it has a focal length of 1.5 feet and was the 209th Nairne instrument of this size and the 480th Nairne telescope overall. A correlation of serial numbers and dates indicates that this example was made in 1768 or 1769.
Ref: Samuel Williams, "An Account of the Transit of Venus over the June, June 3d, 1769, as observed at Newbury, in Massachusetts," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 2 (1786): 246-251.
Williams, "Astronomical Observations made in the State of Massachusetts," Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1 (1785): 81-124, on 86.
Gerard l'E. Turner, "The Number Code on Reflecting Telescopes by Nairne and Blunt," Journal for the History of Astronomy 10 (1979): 177-184.
Currently not on view
Currently not on view (cover; lense; lense discs; threaded ring to lense)
Object Name
Date made
ca. 1769
Nairne, Edward
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
Physical Description
metal, brass (overall material)
tube: 12 in x 18 in x 9 in x 2 in; 30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x 22.86 cm x 5.08 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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