Monday, April 9, 2012

Farewell Norm, and Thanks

See more about Norman Edmund at

Never met the guy. 
Oh, but what an affect he had on my life... and those of so many others like me.

From sixth grade (mid-1960's) onward, untold hours of my youth were spent totally absorbed in the Edmund Scientific Catalog. Like a Bible-toting missionary I literally carried it with me everywhere I went, including with me to school every day and even to our fishing camp on weekends. In those days I literally had no money, no allowance or such, yet so it was that I carefully set aside change from trolley fares and occasional school lunch money and scraped together $4.00 to buy an optical experimenter's kit, the "Chipped Lenses" kit of factory seconds with a booklet of instructions of how they could be combined to make magnifiers, slide viewers and even simple (very simple) telescopes. It was from this I built my very first telescope, a 12.2x, 32mm refractor . It had a cardboard tube from the Cut-Rite waxed paper box, this I painted black on the inside and made a field-stop of the correct size and placement in the tube to cut down on internal reflection; the eyepiece/focuser was one of mom's thread-spools with one end lopped-off so the barrel of which fit just snugly in the end of the tube with enough travel to allow careful focusing. I stole a rickety collapable camera tripod from my brother and contrived an adjustable alt-azimuth mount from some Erector Set parts. Now twelve power was not much more than a common set of binoculars but it was with this scope I first was able to see the tiny but unmistakable roughness at the edges of the crescent Moon, yes, at last, I was seeing craters...

How I longed, how I ached, for the possibility of somehow coming into the unspeakable sum of $29.95 and be able to afford the Edmund "Space Conqueror", their 3 inch f-10 Newtonian Reflector starter-scope. Nope, Ralphie and the Red Ryder BB-gun had nothin' on my unrequited suffering over that unattainable Grail of a scope. I never did get it but eventually Santa had mercy on me and gave me my first nice scope, my Selsi 3" f8 Newtonian Reflector, a much more physically and optically sound scope.

An Edmund "Space Conqueror"

Omigod omigod omigod ! - - Ain't she a beauty? 
(No, that wasn't me; just some other guy, lucky b#st@rd...)

As the years passed I was to make more extensive albeit cautious purchases from the Edscorp catalog, perhaps the best were a couple of books and booklets which I still prize and wish were more readily available to kids today: the books from the Edmund Popular Optics series by Sam Brown*, an amazing instructional artist and author now 12-15 years passed whose legacy stands as a hugely underrated influence on a couple of generations of DIY telescope tinkerers.

- Eric C.
* IHMO, the neglect of Sam Brown's legacy has been all but criminal. Let's hope that someone at S&T eventually does a decent spotlight feature on him instead of the sad little postage stamp of an obit they wedged into the news section back when he passed.

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