“Biggest in the World” - Twice
60-inch telescope 1908 - 1917
• Length - 18 feet
• Weight of telescope - 40 tons
• Weight of 60-inch mirror - 1,950 lbs.
100-inch telescope 1917 - 1948
• Length - 40 feet
• Weight of telescope - 87 tons
• Weight of 100-inch mirror - 9,500 lbs.
“Since the very first telescope made by man peered feebly into the mysteries of the heavens, perhaps no single event in the history of astronomy has held more interest for scientists and laymen alike than the accompanying announcement by Dr. George E. Hale, director of the Mt. Wilson Observatory, that the new 100-inch reflector, by far the greatest and most powerful telescope in the world is an unqualified success." - Los Angeles Times, 1919
A few years earlier Hale’s own optician had declared the mirror glass unusable. Benefactor John D. Hooker had balked and refused to pay for it and men had been severely injured pouring it. Hale was emotionally exausted. But his telescope was a masterpiece of engineering and lead to a revolution in astronomy.
Men, mules, horses, carts & trucks were used to haul hundreds of tons of equipment up a steep nine-mile trail, that had been blasted out of granite, to the top of Mount Wilson. Winter rains would often wash out the route. The trip would take all day and accidents were not uncommon.
Click here to see spectacular 360˚panoramas of Mount Wilson. Courtesy, Carol Struycken.
Hale's difficult courtship with steel magnate Andrew Carnegie resulted in the millions necessary for the construction of Mount Wilson but Hale had paid an equally steep price in shattered nerves. When Carnegie finally came to California to see the great observatory, the skies were cloudy and he saw nothing through the telescope.
Hale's ability to attract money was as impressive as his ability to promote science. He gave numerous interviews talking about "unlocking the secrets of the heavens." His new new 100-inch telescope, the biggest in the world, made international news. Mount Wilson was soon proclaimed "The Scientific Eye of America."
Photo of Mount Wilson