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Tom Polakis
Carpal Tunnel

Reged: 12/20/04

Loc: Tempe, Arizona
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital @Lowell new [Re: jrbarnett]
      #5941764 - 06/26/13 05:07 PM


Fred, I surprised they need to beg funds from we great unwashed. Discovery Network paid for their last big telescope and observatory project, and I believe they have multiple wealthy donors in tow.

As was pointed out, Discovery paid for about 30% of the DCT. Yes, Lowell Observatory has some wealthy donors, but they were not lining up to pay for the Clark Telescope restoration. They are a private institution that is not basking in funds. Both of the large Phoenix astronomy clubs were happy to donate $1000 each to the cause of restoring the telescope.

Since Lowell astronomers, including the current director, have spoken at Saguaro Astronomy Club meetings many times, I can report that the last thing they think about amateur astronomers as is unwashed.


Personally I feel a tribute/monument to Burnham someplace other than Lowell might be more...respectful.

While Burnham may mean a lot to us, he is not the face of Lowell Observatory. Rather, he was an employee who's employment ceased when the project he was working on ended. I was impressed that Lowell was as open-minded as they were to our proposal to put the memorial on their grounds. They cooperated with my wife Jennifer in every way when she was managing the memorial project.

Burnham certainly has no relationship to the Clark refractor, so there's no connection between Lowell's fundraising efforts and him.

It seems like some folks may be getting carried away regarding Burnham's contributions to Lowell Observatory. He is being paid an appropriate amount of respect by the existing memorial.


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Matthew Ota

Reged: 04/30/05

Loc: Los Angeles, California
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital @Lowell new [Re: derangedhermit]
      #5945721 - 06/28/13 10:22 PM

Management at observatories can be as #$%#@ as management in society as a whole. Burnham is one of many who have been fired from observatories.

The legendary astroniomer James Westphal once took one of his gadgets to a management meeting at Caltech. He placed it on a table and said "This is how I view management. It was a small box wit a switch on it. He flipped the switch, and a little hand and arm came out of the box and shut the switch off. Westphal was never required to attend a management meeting after that....


Seeing this plaque makes me both angry and sad. Here was a man who loved astronomy as few have before or since. The management at Lowell fired him, offering him only a janitor's position, the year after Dover published his Handbook. Dover never allowed any new editions to be printed. He discovered 6 comets; I've never seen a reference to him doing poor work during his 21 years at Lowell. He made an invaluable contribution to amateur astronomy in his Celestial Handbook. And he struggled to maintain himself as a member of society after he was out of a job.

Maybe he became a problem employee at Lowell, and they have never wanted to make that public. For Dover, I see no excuse, only a reason: that they thought they could make more money doing what they did.

I believe if he was allowed to continue to work in any role at Lowell that gave him some recognition as an astronomer, and continued access to the astronomical research materials that he absorbed like a sponge, and Dover had let him update his handbook and publish a new edition every several years, he could have lived exactly the full life he wanted, and was so wonderfully suited for. The result of that life would have been an even greater contribution to all astronomy. Here was an exceptional human being who needed a little help - and he didn't get it.

It's understandable, of course, if he was a problem at Lowell, although even then attempts to help him should have been made. I don't know if he was, or if there were.

Otherwise, if I was a manager at Lowell I would be embarrassed - shamed - by that plaque.

I hope that if anyone today becomes aware of someone who has made a special contribution to amateur astronomy and is in need, they will bring that need to the attention of the community. May we respond well.

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Reged: 08/29/04

Loc: Conneaut, Ohio
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital @Lowell new [Re: Matthew Ota]
      #5947656 - 06/30/13 08:20 AM

This has been hashed out a few times here at CN, this thread here from the stellar media:

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amicus sidera
Post Laureate

Reged: 10/14/11

Loc: East of the Sun, West of the M...
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital @Lowell [Re: droid]
      #5947859 - 06/30/13 11:05 AM


This has been hashed out a few times here at CN, this thread here from the stellar media:

Many thanks for posting a link to that thread, Andy; I was unaware of its existence.

The commentary contained therein did an excellent job of bringing many issues concerning Burnham and Lowell into clearer focus, enhanced my admiration and respect for certain posters, and utterly confirmed my suspicions regarding several others.


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