Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about John L. Dobson, the astronomer. For John Dobson, the British architect, see John Dobson (architect).
John L. Dobson (born September 14, 1915) is a highly influential amateur astronomer who has been dubbed the "pied piper of astronomy" and the "star monk". He was the only amateur astronomer highlighted in the PBS series The Astronomers.
He was born in Beijing, China. His maternal grandfather founded Peking University, his mother was a musician, and his father taught zoology at the University. He and his parents moved to San Francisco, California in 1927. His father accepted a teaching position at Lowell High School and taught there until the 1950s.
John Dobson took a degree in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1943 and joined the Vedanta Monastery in San Francisco in 1944, becoming a monk of the Ramakrishna Order. He left the order after his extracurricular astronomical activities brought him into conflict with his religious superiors.
The Dobsonian telescope mount is named after John Dobson. He was the co-founder of the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers, an organization that aims to popularize astronomy among the people on the street. Dobson authored the 1991 book "How and Why to Make a User-Friendly Sidewalk Telescope" (ISBN 0913399647) with editor Norman Sperling. This book helped popularize what came to be known as the Dobsonian mount, and treats the "why" as importantly as the "how". It covers Dobson's background and his philosophy on astronomy and the universe, and the importance of popular access to astronomy for proper a appreciation of the universe.
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