Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Dollond, Peter

Reference work entry

Born London, England, 24 February 1730 or 1731

Died Kennington, (London), England, 2 July 1820

Peter Dollond was a noted English optician and instrument maker. The eldest son of   John Dollond and Elizabeth Sommelier, he married Ann Phillips. They had two daughters, Louise and Anne.

By the age of 20, Peter Dollond had started in business as an optician, a business his father joined a few years later. After his father’s invention of the achromatic lens, Peter made large numbers of achromatic refracting telescopes of many sizes and designs. He developed a triplet achromatic lens (1765) that also had less spherical aberration. These were the finest telescope objectives available at the time. But because of the difficulty in obtaining good quality flint glass, he was able to make only a few of these in sizes with apertures as large as 4 in. and 5 in, one of which was purchased by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Dollond’s instruments were used to observe the transit of Venus during captain James Cook’s voyage to Australia.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Dollond supplied the army and navy with theodolites, sextants, and microscopes and also introduced a telescope with several brass drawtubes, which was extensively used by the military because it was compact. He made improvements to   John Hadley ’s quadrant to make it more serviceable at sea (1772) and added an apparatus to the equatorial instrument to correct for errors due to the refraction of the atmosphere (1779).   Nevil Maskelyne , the Astronomer Royal, presented descriptions of these design improvements to the Royal Society. Dollond is also credited with a number of minor improvements to telescopes and other intruments.

In addition to achromatic telescopes, Dollond’s workshop turned out Gregorian reflecting telescopes, sextants, theodolites, transits, and many other optical instruments. A heliometer constructed by him was used at the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope until 1868. Using a similar instrument in 1812,   Friedrich Bessel measured the distance between the components of 61 Cygni. Dollond, like his father, served as optician to King George III. Peter was also a fellow of the American Philosophical Society.

Selected References

  1. Barty-King, Hugh (1986). Eyes Right: The Story of Dollond& Aitchison Opticians 1750–1985. London: Quiller Press.Google Scholar
  2. — (1820). “Peter Dollond” Gentleman’s Magazine2: 90–91.Google Scholar
  3. Reed, George (May 1984). “Dollond vs. Hall: Through an Achromatic Lens.” Griffith Observer: 2–11.Google Scholar
  4. Rudd, M. Eugene (1998). “The Dollond Family.” Journal of the Antique Telescope Society, no. 15: 4–10.ADSGoogle Scholar
  5. Sorrenson, Richard J. (1989). “Making a Living Out of Science: John Dollond and the Achromatic Lens.” History of Science Society Schuman Prize Essay.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NebraskaLincolnUSA