The Perfect Machine: Building the Palomar Telescope
by Ronald Florence


Book Review by Joe Orman

[Originally published in the newsletter of the East Valley Astronomy Club, April 2001]

If this were a work of fiction, a reader might dismiss it as being unbelievably fantastic.

But, incredibly, this is not fiction. All of these things really happened, in the construction of the 200-inch Hale Telescope which still operates atop Southern California's Palomar Mountain. Ronald Florence's The Perfect Machine is as thrilling as any adventure story, as engaging as any mystery novel, and contains as much pathos as any Shakespearean tragedy. It should be required reading for anyone planning a pilgrimage to the mountain, to stand in the presence of the great telescope itself. Florence's vivid account will not only give visitors an appreciation of the gigantic scale of the precision instrument, but also the unseen enormous quantities of money, labor, ingenuity and patience that went into its making. The world has known many larger telescopes since, but in terms of human effort overcoming adversity, indeed there has never been a more perfect machine.

A drawing by Russell W. Porter of the 200" Hale Telescope

Revised: June 6, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Joe Orman
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