TOOLS, TOYS AND TECHNOMACHISMO: OR WHY AMERICA'S BOUGHT ALVAN CLARK TELESCOPES

Deborah Jean Warner

To set the stage for the scientific talks on the schedule today, I want to discuss some aspects of American culture in the 1880's, at the time that the McCormick Observatory was built and put into operation. These aspects include a rising demand for telescopes, caused in part by well publicized discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics, and in part by the technical abilities of Alvan Clark & Sons, who built the great McCormick refractor. We must also mention the proliferation of colleges, an increased emphasis on science education, and a growing appreciation for the fact that, beside providing educational benefits, expensive and sophisticated scientific apparatus would serve as a magnet attracting students to a campus. Finally there was an expanding economy in which a substantial number of people were able to mass substantial amounts of disposable income, and a culture which promoted astronomy as an appropriate undertaking and/or avenue of philanthropy for men and women of means.