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History of Stellafane 1921 - 1989


Bert Willard
Bert Willard, sitting on the clubhouse wall with his award winning caustic sundial at the 2012 convention. Photo by Dick Koolish.
Author Bert Willard

A number of years ago I was encouraged to prepare a broad history of amateur telescope making from the point of view of the Springfield Telescope Makers and their influence on the hobby.  Over the years this project has morphed into a history of Stellafane itself.  As club historian and museum curator, I am fortunate to have had access to our archives.  A huge collection of letters, photographs, secretary’s reports and other documents are preserved from the beginning of the club to the present.  Part of that history I have lived through, having joined the STM in 1953 as a freshman in high school.  I was the youngest member of the club by decades, and in awe of the other members; some were retired, some worked in the shops in Springfield, some were even in top management.  There was even a governor and a senator  (wow).  No less awed was I by the stories heard about their founding president, Russell W. Porter.  They seemed to have great reverence for this man, who by then had died.  He had been an arctic explorer (really?), a self-taught telescope maker, a trained artist, and an educated architect.  To top it off he worked many years for George E. Hale on the 200-inch telescope in Pasadena, California (wow again).

In 1965 I finally decided that I wanted to write a biography of Porter, a project that eventually took ten years of my spare time.

I attribute my experiences of studying astronomy and building my own telescopes to directing me into my career of optical engi­neering.  I am not the only STM member to do so; many others have chosen careers in the optics field.  This is one of the benefits of the telescope-making hobby.

Bert Willard, January 2013

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