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  • sydneycityskywatch

Reflections on Sydney Amateur Astronomy 1885–1960, Monday 5 Feb, 6:30pm

'From Madsen to Beames: Reflections on Sydney Amateur Astronomy 1885–1960 and some ‘Large Telescopes’ presented by Professor Wayne Orchiston, University of Science and Technology of China, and University of Southern Queensland

Between 1885 and 1960 Sydney’s amateur astronomers enjoyed an over-abundance of what at the time were regarded as ‘large’ reflecting telescopes. Apart from a 16.5-in (41.9 cm), three 18-in (45.7 cm) and a 20-in (50.8 cm) there was the remarkable 24-in (61.0 cm) telescope at Linden Observatory in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney. Two of these telescopes were imported from England, while the others were made in Australia.


In this paper I will focus on the 18-in reflectors made in Hans Madsen and Robert Wigmore, and the 24-in and accompanying 18-in reflector at Linden Observatory made by Ken Beames.


Professor Wayne Orchiston is employed by the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei and is also an Adjunct Professor of Astronomy in the Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland. He once worked at the CSIRO’s Division of Radiophysics and its successor, the Australia Telescope National Facility, in Sydney, and as a guide at Sydney Observatory.


Wayne has more than 200 publications about Australian astronomy, including books on John Tebbutt and early Australian radio astronomy. His Australian research papers are mainly about historic transits of Venus; historic telescopes and observatories; amateur astronomers and the amateur–professional interface; early Australian astronomical groups and societies; the and the history of radio astronomy.


Since 1985 Wayne has been a member of the IAU, and he is a Past President of Commission C3 (History of Astronomy). He is also a Past President of the BAA NSW Branch and the Astronomical Society of Victoria. He is the Founding Chair of the History & Heritage Working Group of the SE Asian Astronomy Network, and is the founding Director of the Historical Section of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.


In 1998 Wayne co-founded the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, and is currently its Co-Editor. In 2013 the IAU named minor planet 48471 ‘Orchiston’, and in 2019 he was a co-recipient of the American Astronomical Society’s Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize for the Eclipses, Transits and Comets of the Nineteenth Century: How America’s Perception of the Skies Changed. In 2023 Wayne was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, and Springer published the following Festschrift: Gullberg, S., and Robertson, P. (eds), Essays on Astronomical History and Heritage: A Tribute to Wayne Orchiston on His 80th Birthday. In January 2024 Wayne was awarded the Le Roy E. Doggett Prize for History of Astronomy by the American Astronomical Society.


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