History of the 1892 6-inch Refractor

Images of the Telescope


The telescope of University of Washington Observatory, has a 6-inch Brashear objective lens on a Warner & Swasey equatorial mount.

In 1890, Joseph Taylor worked under Schaeberle at Lick Observatory.

1891 or 1892, Joseph Taylor, now a mathematics professor, taught the first astronomy class at U.W. In 1891 or 1892, Taylor received a grant of $3,000 from the U.W. regents, of which $2,000 was spent on the (current) telescope and $1,000 on the first observatory, which was built on the original campus on 4th & University in downtown Seattle. A mason was responsible for the pier, a carpenter for the framing, and Taylor himself finished the structure in between classes.

Taylor was interested in a Clark objective, but Schaeberle informed him that for a moderate sized objective, Brashear would be the equal and price would be less. The 6-inch Brashear objective possibly cost $650, with the Warner & Swasey mount accounting for the remainder of the roughly $2,000. The objective works at f/15, giving a 90-inch focal length.

In recent years, the telescope was still itemized in U.W. inventories with a value of $2,000.

In 1895, U.W. moved to Denny Hall at current location, and the observatory was subsequently built of the remaining Tenino sandstone blocks, and is thus the second oldest building on the campus.

Taylor taught General Astronomy and Observational Astronomy classes.

The equatorial telescope was restored in the late 1990s and is currently in excellent condition. The weight driven, centrifugally regulated clock drive works well, being repaired by Peter Hirtle (member, Seattle Astronomical Society) in early 2001. The driving weights are located inside the pier and are attached to the drive by a pulley riding on a steel cable. The weights are cranked-up at the start of observing.

The objective has several very minor blemishes, a few square inches of slight haze, seemingly from water, but overall it is in very good condition. The focuser, slow motion controls, and other mechanical parts work well. The dome and shutter are stiff but function. The dome has a Warner & Swasey plaque, and is the smallest W & S dome known to people who have visited many domes. The dome is made primarily of wood that was cut before 1892. It rests on 3 “cannonballs,” and is rotated manually.

To the west side of the Observatory is a transit room. The 3 inch Bamberg elbow transit was purchased in the 1920s, possibly from the U.S. Geodetic Survey. It was used as late as the 1970s and remains in very good condition.

Also part of the facilities are:

  • A Zeiss astrograph, rather crudely constructed.
  • A chronograph, used with the transit, seemingly not in working condition, without an appropriate clock.
  • An unsigned filar micrometer of moderate quality.
  • An unsigned filar micrometer of very fine quality.
  • An objective prism, possibly made in the late 1900s by Herman Dittmer.
  • A Berger surveyor’s level
  • A pendulum clock.

This research was done by Peter Abrahams (telscope@europa.com). You can learn more about the history of the telescope and the binocular by visiting his web site: www.europa.com/~telscope/binotele.htm