Ronald Florence

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The Perfect Machine photos

For higher resolution versions of these photographs, please see the printed edition of the book, especially the hardcover edition where the photos are printed on glossy stock. For more photos of Palomar see my article on the 50th anniversary of the observatory and the accompanying photographs. There are newly-released online videos of the construction of the Palomar telescopes from the Caltech archives.

Russell Porter's 1936 conception of the two-hundred-inch telescope. (Courtesy of Allan Sandage)

George Ellery Hale and Ferdinand Ellerman at Mount Wilson, ca. 1905 (Courtesy of Carnegie Observatories and Huntington Library)

Hale's first big telescope, the Yerkes 40-inch refractor (Courtesy of Astrophysics Library, California Institute of Technology)

The 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson, ca. 1928. The night assistant's desk, where the observations were recorded on the fateful first light, is in the foreground. (Courtesy of Rockefeller Archive Center)

George Hale at the solar image in the National Association of Science building in Washington, at the time of the great debate. (Courtesy of Carnegie Observatories and Huntington Library)


Francis Pease's first drawings of a proposed 300-inch telescope. The domes of the 100- and 60-inch telescope are superimposed. (Courtesy of Astrophysics Library, California Institute of Technology)

A.L. Lewis, Elihu Thomson, Walter Adams, and H.L. Watson in front of the furnace at General Electric's West Lynn plant, during the spraying of the first 60-inch blank. (Courtesy of Hall of History, Schenectady, NY)

A ladle of glass being poured into the mold in the beehive oven, during the pouring of the first 200-inch disk. (Courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass)

The pouring of the 200-inch disk, as celebrated in the popular press at the time. (Courtesy of Popular Science magazine)

George McCauley poses with his polariscope on the newly uncovered disk. (Courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass)

The disk arrives in Pasadena. (Courtesy of Astrophysics Library, California Institute of Technology)

Marcus Brown (far right) and his crew, with the disk on its storage easel after it was unloaded from the truck. John Anderson couldn't sleep that night worrying that an earthquake would tip the mirror off the easel. (Courtesy of Mel Johnson)

The optics lab from the visitors‹ gallery, with the test station for the 200-inch mirror and a polishing machine for an auxiliary mirror in the foreground. (Courtesy of Mel Johnson)

Straightening the rubber skirts around the disk before resuming the polishing. The worker in the background is smoking a pipe; most of the others smoked cigarettes or chewed tobacco. (Courtesy of Mel Johnson)

Francis Pease's first map of the route up to Palomar, made before the grant for the telescope was officially announced. (Courtesy of Sylvia Marshall)

Sinclair Smith, who did not live to see the telescope finished. (Courtesy of Olin Wilson)

The mountaintop as construction began. The WPA camp is in the foreground; the water tower is at the left; the site for the 200-inch telescope is in the middle, with work on the “small” Schmidt camera in the right background. (Courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library)

John Anderson, Captain McDowell, Max Mason, and Russell Porter inspecting the early steelwork. (Courtesy of Rockefeller Archive Center)

Mark Serrurier's first drawing of the tube truss. In his notes he explained that “dimensions m and n do not change as telescope moves.” (Courtesy of Naomi Serrurier)

Captain McDowell with the 1/10 scale model that served as a telescope for generations of Caltech undergrads. The external piping is for the oil-pressure bearings. (Courtesy of Astrophysics Library, California Institute of Technology)

A large-scale drawing of the mounting prepared by the Westinghouse engineers. (Courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library)

Westinghouse workers pose inside a section of the telescope tube. (Courtesy of Westinghouse Corporation)

Preparing the horseshoe bearing for machining. The holes allow workers inside to weld the internal structures Rein Kroon designed. (Courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library)

A bemused Albert Einstein (front row, center) on the dais at Westinghouse's celebration of the completion of the telescope tube. (Courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library)

Trucking the mounting, here a section of the horseshoe bearing, up the south grade of Palomar Mountain in 1938. Two tractors are pulling and one is pushing the heavy load. (Courtesy of Hagley Museum and LIbrary)

Bringing the sections of the mounting through the hatch into the dome. After unloading the section, Byron Hill said he finally understood what women went through at childbirth. (Courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library)

Rein Kroon's bicycle-spoke declination bearing. (Courtesy of Mel Johnson)

Ira Bowen, Lyman Briggs of the National Geographic Society, Don Hendrix, Robert Harrington, Albert Wilson, and Byron Hill at the 48-inch Schmidt telescope for the beginning of the first Palomar sky survey. (Courtesy of Astrophysics Library, California Institute of Technology)

The completed telescope, looking northwest. (Courtesy of Astrophysics Library, California Institute of Technology)

The dedication of the telescope. Raymond Fosdick of the Rockefeller Foundation is speaking. The mirror is at the upper right, covered by its protective diaphragm; the aluminizing tank is behind it. (Courtesy of Rockefeller Archive Center)

Russell Porter's breakaway drawing of the telescope. (Courtesy of Astrophysics Library, California Institute of Technology)

Russell Porter's first idea of an observing station at the Cassegrain focus of the 200-inch telescope. Astronomers didn't like the idea of observing from what looked like a child's swing. (Courtesy of Astrophysics Library, California Institute of Technology)

Edwin Hubble in the prime focus cage of the 200-inch telescope. The mirror is open below. (Courtesy of Life Magazine)

The 200-inch telescope today. (Courtesy of Jean Mueller)

Selected Works

History
... eminently readable history ... both an adventure yarn and a profound tragedy made up of hope, suspicion, fear, and confusion; all this against the background of the deportation trains leaving daily for Auschwitz.
—István Deák, The New Republic
Florence chronicles the birth of the modern Middle East by narrating the intersecting lives of two remarkable men.… skillfully blends geopolitical history and cloak-and-dagger tales ...
The New Yorker
... reads like a first rate murder mystery thriller. But it is not a thriller. It is an account of a disastrous accusation against an entire community. Nor is it only history. Tragically, today the same horrible accusations— long thought to be buried— are once again being voiced. All this makes Blood Libel a book of contemporary significance.
—Deborah Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust
… a perfect job of science writing for the general public. Over to you, Pulitzer Prize Committee …
—Arthur C. Clarke
Novels
Florence's inventiveness sounds a magical voice that makes the pages of Jewish history breathe and sing.

Jewish Voice & Herald

Only when you read two or three new books a week for five or six years do you realize how truly rare a novel like this is.…
—Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times