Marv Bolt’s Telescope Quest Begins!

Marvin Bolt, the Museum’s curator of science and technology, traveled to Europe last fall to research some of the world’s oldest telescopes. Read along to hear about his adventures and discoveries.

Curator selfie prior to leaving for Europe.

Curator selfie prior to leaving for Europe.

Some years ago, I was privileged to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct quite different but complementary research projects on the world’s oldest telescopes. This work connects with scholars in museums and universities, and with private collectors, around the world.

To complete the NSF portion of the grant, I am traveling extensively in Europe to examine telescopes — their glass, in particular — but other aspects as well.
So far, my primary research partner, Michael Korey of the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon in Dresden, Germany, and I have arranged visits to inspect and measure telescopes in quite a few places (in order): Leiden, Wassenaar, and Utrecht in the Netherlands; Dresden, Luneburg, Berlin, and Jena in Germany; London (Science Museum, Greenwich, British Museum), Oxford, and Cambridge in England; Florence, Milan, Bologna, Turin, and Rome in Italy; Switzerland; Munich, Kassel, Stuttgart, and Oberkochen in Germany. Even the few holes in the calendar are penciled in with visits that await final confirmation.

The Hazlett boxes protect the gear, and even include a warning. What more could one want?

The Hazlett boxes protect the gear, and even include a
warning. What more could one want?

The past few weeks, I’ve been in touch with optical experts in Corning, Tucson, Boston, and Rochester to put the final touches on a portable optical testing lab. Steve Hazlett, one of our expert art handlers, made numerous padded boxes to house and protect the specialized gear.

I’m now equipped with a 69-lb (just under the maximum 70 lb limit for airlines) pelican case full of optical gear, a 49-lb (just under the 50-lb limit for generating excess baggage fees) suitcase with optical and electrical gear, a 30-lb camera bag with two laptops, and a small carry-on for clothing. Stay tuned to see what telescopic treasures await discovery!

Marv's luggage

Marv’s luggage

Read more about Marv’s quest to find the world’s oldest telescopes.

Watch the AP video, “On the Hunt for Astronomical Artifacts,” featuring Marv:

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