100 and 50 years ago

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    100 YEARS AGO

    During two or three visits to Paris and Nice some years ago, I discussed with many French astronomers, whom I was privileged to count among my personal friends, the question of the large telescopes of the future. Among the conclusions come to, the first was that the glass industry was not in a position to grapple with astronomical requirements, and hence when reflectors of 8 or 10 feet diameter were talked of it was understood that they must be made of porcelain with a glass surface. … During the last few years we have heard a great deal of an enormous telescope to be constructed on the occasion of the Paris Exhibition of 1900; a reflector of 10 feet aperture, such as was discussed in 1875, but it would seem that now as then the glass industry is not able to furnish a disc of this size, for after all it has been determined to construct a refractor, and mount it as I suggested nearly twenty years ago in front of a siderostat. … It is the intention of the Syndicate to erect in connection with this telescope a Palais de l'Optique near the Eiffel Tower, containing a hall capable of holding some 4000 persons, and in fine weather images of the various celestial bodies are to be thrown on a screen 20 metres in the side by means of secondary magnifiers. Thus an image of the moon 16 metres in diameter, and of Mars 3.70 metres in diameter, are promised to the abonnés.

    From Nature 21 December 1899.

    50 YEARS AGO

    Only two large mammals of South Africa have become extinct in the historical period, namely, the quagga and the blue buck. The blue buck (Hippotragus leucophoeus) lived in the south-west part of Cape Colony, and is believed to have been exterminated about 1799. About half a dozen mounted specimens have been preserved, mostly rather bad, and perhaps about three more pairs of horns exist the determination of which is doubtful. No specimen of the skull is known to exist, except, perhaps in some of the mounted specimens. On recently visiting the Hunterian Museum (Zoological Section) at the University of Glasgow, I saw a specimen that at once struck me as probably the skull of the extinct blue buck. There is no history attached to the specimen; but it is believed to have belonged to the Hunterian Collection. As William Hunter died in 1783, the specimen could date back to about the middle of the eighteenth century.

    From Nature 24 December 1949.

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    100 and 50 years ago. Nature 402, 859 (1999) doi:10.1038/47207

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