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Lowell Observatory Telescope Model


This is a model of the 24” Lowell Observatory telescope from Flagstaff, AZ, USA. It is 40.5 cm tall and constructed of wood and metal parts with nails and screws. The model is composed of 10 x 15 cm wooden base with a central wooden pillar topped with a metal geared mechanism, holding a small rod at an angle. Attached to the small rod is a larger wooden rod, fitted with metal rings, representing the telescope. The whole model and mechanism is painted dark green with a glossy finish. The telescope mechanism is articulated and the rods can each be rotated to position the model. A human figurine, made of metal, stands at the base of the model for scale. Behind the figure are two embossed plastic labels that read: “24-IN. REFRACTOR., LOWEL OBSERVATORY.”

Accession Number: 2014.ast.27

Alternative Name: Lowell telescope

Primary Materials: wood, metal, paint


On top of the base on embossed plastic labels: “24-IN. REFRACTOR., LOWEL OBSERVATORY.”

Dimensions (cm): Max: 40.5cm x 23.5cm x 9.5cm


The model was used for teaching purposes and conceptualizing instrumentation by the faculty and students in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.


Good. The main wooden support of the telescope model has lifted 2mm from the base exposing the connecting nails. Some paint on the metal components is flaking off. The wide metal ring on the wide end of the telescope model is loose. The scale figuring has a broken left ankle and a missing right arm. The model is missing the finding scope and the instrument ring from around the telescope’s viewing end.

Associated Instruments: 2014.ast.23, 2014.ast.31, 2014.ast.24

Manufacturer: Workshop at David Dunlap Observatory

Date of Manufacture: 1952-1953


This model, with three others, was constructed at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill in or just before 1953. It was kept there until the University of Toronto sold the Observatory in 2009, at which point it was moved to the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics U of T’s St George Campus along with other objects from the Observatory. In 2017, the model was moved to another storage location in the McLennan Physics Building.

Additional Information and References:

Historical Notes:

This model, and the others like it, are described in the Dunlap Observatory’s 1953 update in the Notes from Observatories in the Journal of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 47, p.96: “A number of demonstration models depicting the largest telescopes in present use have been constructed in the shop of the David Dunlap Observatory. Built to the scale of one-quarter inch to the foot, these moving models were intended to demonstrate the advantages and drawbacks of the various methods of mounting an astronomical telescope. While primarily intended for the classroom, the models were displayed at the recent At-Home of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and at the Canadian Hobby and Homecraft show where they were viewed with lively interest. The limitations of a telescope mount or its ease of handling can be graphically demonstrated with models in a manner not possible with only diagrams and explanations.”
Professor Emeritus John Percy remembers them being useful later in the 20th century in the teaching of undergraduate students, particularly with regards to the operation of the David Dunlap Observatory’s 74” telescope itself:
“[B]ecause they were a more or less exact model they didn’t convey any misconceptions, and they gave you a way of visualizing how the telescope moved, how it could be pointed at different parts of the sky. You could certainly illustrate where the Newtonian focus was, and how difficult it was for Helen Hogg to access that [on the 74” telescope]. Whereas all the [other scientists] using it could conveniently [work] at floor level and so forth… And all three of the telescopes have a slightly different design for the mounting of it, to show there were different designs you could use and why you couldn’t use the same one for the 24-inch telescope, but you could for the 74-inch telescope.”
The models were mostly used on the downtown campus, where undergraduate classes were held.
John Percy was interviewed on March 11, 2021.