Smyth equatorial refracting telescope, 1829.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Designed by Reverend R Sheepshanks and made by Dollond of London, this was the first equatorially mounted telescope in England to be driven by clockwork. The refracting telescope with a 5.9 inch (150mm) lens was initially installed at Captain William Smyth's observatory in Bedford in 1827. Smyth used it to survey the sky for his book, 'A Cycle of Celestial Objects' (1844). The first guidebook of the heavens written for the amateur observer, it was an instant succes. Later, Smyth sold the telescope to his good friend Dr Lee, who had an observatory at Hartwell near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. It was subsequently purchased by the British government who sent it on the 1874 transit of Venus expedition to Egypt. It was donated to the Science Museum, London in 1929.