John Dobson, the co-founder of San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers and the inventor of a telescope that people can build themselves, died on January 15 in Burbank. He was 98.
For decades, Dobson introduced the public to the sky, setting up telescopes in cities and parks and inviting passers-by to take a look into space. And he taught them how to build their own telescopes, too.
Dobson put his first telescope together from found objects in the 1950s, when he was a monk. He had been assigned to spend his life "reconciling ancient Hindu scripture with modern physics," according to the New York Times:
It was as part of this quest that he decided to make a telescope to look at the universe. As material he used plywood, cardboard tubes, glass from ship portholes and even cereal boxes.
Dobson was eventually expelled from his monastery in Sacramento because he was spending too much time away from it, teaching other people how to build telescopes.
He came to San Francisco, and continued sharing his love of space with anyone around him, setting up telescopes in parking lots and on sidewalks. He co-founded the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers in 1968.