display | more...
Mr. Dobson is probably most famous for the ingenious and inexpensive telescope design which bears his name. He also founded the group Sidewalk Astronomers, who are dedicated to bringing the wonders of the night sky to the masses, through star parties and telescope making classes.

Born in Beijing, China in 1915, John and his family moved to San Francisco in 1927. He attended UC Berkeley, earning degrees in chemistry and mathematics in 1943. After a year of war-related research work, he entered a Vedanta monastery. In college and as a monk, Dobson's motivation was the same: to try to achieve an understanding of the cosmos.

He built his first telescope in the 1950s. He was so amazed and transfixed by what he saw, that he felt duty-bound to show it to as many people as possible. This desire to share astronomy quickly became the defining principle of his life.

He began making telescopes for others, sometimes using ordinary household equipment. The Dobsonian telescope design (Dobson himself prefers the term sidewalk telescope) is as simple as can be: a hollow tube with a large mirror at the bottom end, and a small pick-off mirror at top end. He began to sneak out of the monastery, to share the beauty of the celestial firmament with whom ever happened to pass by. He was eventually asked to leave the monastery for his nocturnal transgressions.

Since then, Dobson has devoted his life to teaching people how to make telescopes, and showing them the night sky. He has left an indelible mark on amateur astronomy.


Some of the information in this writeup came from an article in the magazine Sky and Telescope.