- Posted January 16, 2014 by
los angeles, California
John Dobson, Influencial Amateur Astronomer Dies
John was born in Peking, China on September 14, 1915. His maternal grandfather was the founder of Peking University. When he was a child, his family relocated to San Francisco where John went on to earn a degree in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1943 and then did various defense related jobs during the war.
In 1944, John began attending the Vedanta Society of San Francisco, where he later became a monk of the Ramakrishna order. It was during his years in the monastery when he built his first telescope and saw the third-quarter Moon with his finished scope. He was so moved his first thought was “Everybody’s got to see this!”
Over the years he began building larger and larger scopes, teaching others how to build them, and always sharing views with the public. Telescopes quickly began to take so much of his time, that he eventually left the monastery, although he always kept close ties with several Vedanta Societies. John took up residence in San Francisco and became a fixture with his telescope at 9th and Irving.
With two young boys who had made telescopes with John, he started the Sidewalk Astronomers in 1968. Today the organization is international with members doing sidewalk observing around the world. In 2007, International Sidewalk Astronomy Night was started in honor of John and his life’s work. John has traveled the world spreading his message of public service astronomy and teaching people how to make low cost telescopes.
After a mild stroke in 2008, John has lived at the Vedanta Society in Hollywood where he was beloved by all. For the past few years, his birthday celebrations were held at the Pacific Astronomy Telescope Show (PATS) and also at Griffith Observatory, where he had a very special relationship.
John has written several books and been the object of a documentary film, “A Sidewalk Astronomer.” He is survived by his son, Loren, hundreds of close friends around the country, and literally thousands of friends and fellow amateur astronomers around the world.
A memorial service will be held at Vedanta Society 1946 Vedanta Place, Hollywood, Ca. next month. In addition, the 7th International Sidewalk Astronomy Night (ISAN) will be held on street corners around the world on March 8th, 2014 in memory of John. For more information about times, please check our website at www.sidewalkastronomers.us