William Gould created this 1/12 scale model Dorpat telescope for the National Geographic Society’s Centennial Celebration, at Explorer’s Hall in Washington, D.C. The original telescope was made by Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787-1826), who discovered the dark absorption lines in the spectrum of the sun now known as Fraunhofer lines. He is considered to be a founding figure in astrophysics. Mr. Gould’s 1/12 scale model duplicates all the features of the real telescope. The original was recently restored in Italy at a cost of $3 million and is now back on display in its original observatory in Tartu, Estonia. 

Bill’s model telescope was made from Ramon (a hard wood from Mexico) and colored with shoe dye. Other parts were machined from brass and steel. This project required extensive research and is accurate to the smallest detail. The model Telescope was featured in the March, 1989 issue of Sky and Telescope. It was also included in Fine Woodworking Design Book Five, as one of 259 of the “World’s Best Works in Wood” (chosen from 1,600 entries). The model itself is fully functional, with the exception of the optics. 

The Great Refractor telescope was the first application of Fraunhofer’s invention of the equatorial mount and clock drive. The telescope had an aperture achromatic lens of about 9-1/2”, f15, making it the largest telescope in the world in 1823. It’s still considered one of the most important scientific instruments in history. Bill researched the telescope through numerous museums and libraries, which provided copies of the maker’s drawings. He also worked directly with the curator of the Dorpat Observatory, who provided many detail photos and measurements. 

William Gould's 1/12 scale model of the Dorpat Great Refractor telescope, built in 1823. 

Exhibit added: December 27, 2013 - Last modified: May 23, 2023

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship