John Pazmino 
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2006 March 10 
    In October 2005 American Association of Variable Star Observers 
held its fall convention in Newton. Massachusetts. I compiled a set of 
four reports about this convention, posted into NYSkies in the 
following months. One of these covered observatories and astronomy 
facilities. One of these was the Cincinnati Observatory, Cincinnati, 
Ohio. This facility was described in a presentation by Gerald Dyk. 
Please see my main article as background for this instant piece. 
The Clark refractor
    Cincinnati Observatory, according to the Dyk lecture, has two 
refractors. One is a Merz instrument of eleven-plus inch aperture. The 
other, Dyk explained, is a Clark product of eight inch aperture. One 
'inch' is about 2-1/2 centimeters. He repeatedly mentioned these 
scopes in his talk and cited their apertures. He even corrected a 
misstated aperture during the question-&-answer after the talk. 
    His talk was lavishly illustrated with photographs, maps, plans, 
documents, but, as far as anyone at the meeting can recall, no 
illustration of the very Clark telescope itself. 
The great Clark theft
    This is one of the more amazing tales of astronomy in the 20th 
century! In summary a Robert Thomas stole the lens of the eight-inch 
Clark refractor in 1981, hid it for 17ish years, then was busted / 
when he offered the lend to Roane State College in Tennessee. The lens 
was recovered intact and restored to the telescope. A good account of 
this saga is given in 'Sidereal messenger', newsletter of the 
Cincinnati Astronomical Society in 2000. 
    The key facts here is that the Clark lens is 8-1/2 inch aperture 
and that the Society replaced it with a Clark lens of 8 inch diameter 
soon after the theft. The new lens was made for John Dawes of England 
in the mid 19th century. He used it for optical tests but not as a 
telescope objective. 
    Hence, at first, Dyk's continual reference to the Clark as '8- 
inch' seemed reasonable; this was the size of the replacement lens. 
The question!
    As one of the after-talk questions, I asked Dyk to relate the 
story of this lens theft. Dyk didn't know of any theft. He stated that 
during his visit to Cincinnati Observatory there ws no mention of any 
stolen lens. I withdrew the question, thinking that I misremembered 
which observatory was the victim. 
    In the break between lecture sessions and all during the next 
day's breaks, other AAVSO delegates came to me. They, too, wondered 
about the lens story and validated my question. They were, too, 
surprised that nothing was said about it, specially since it was a 
major news item and would be a capital chapter of Cincinnati 
Observatory's history. 
NYSkies around the world
    I entered my AAVSO account into the NYSkies forum of Yahoogroups. 
Like for any Internet open forum, material from NYSkies is freely
circulated well beyond the confines of its subscribers. Eventually 
John Ventre, of Cincinnati Observatory, wrote to me with some 
intriguing comments about my summary. 
    There never was a lens stolen from the Cincinnati Observatory! 
    Wait a minute.
    After a few volleys of email, Ventre cleared the air. There are 
TWO observatories in Cincinnati with functioning Clark refractors! One 
is the offices of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society (CAS) in one 
part of town. It has a Clark refractor of 8-1/2 inch diameter. 
    The other is the very Cincinnati Observatory (CO) in an other part 
of town. It has a Clark refractor of, uh, SIXTEEN inch diameter. The 
two properties are operated by wholly independent entities and are not 
corporately related. 
    It was the CAS -- not CO -- Clark lens that was lifted in 1981. 
Being that the lost lens was supplanted by a slightly smaller one of 8 
inch aperture, and this new lens was in use for over twenty years, it 
became common to refer to this telescope as the 'eight-inch' scope. 
    After the 8-1/2 inch lens was reseated in the CAS scope, it was 
found that the replacement 8-inch lens actually performed slightly 
better! The original, stolen, lens was removed and placed on display 
and the scope now operates with the new 8-inch objective. 
    Nothing happened at CO's property, so there was no casual reason 
to bring up the CAS episode during Dyk's visit. 
Eight and sixteen
    This leaves the real puzzle of Dyk routinely calling the CO (not 
CAS) scope an 'eight inch' Clark in his lecture. Could he have simply 
misgaged the size of the scope he saw at Cincinnati Observatory? 
    Given the design of 19th and early 20th century long-focus 
refractors, there's one hell of a difference between a scope of 
aperture 2-to-1 in ratio. The larger specimen does not not just have 
twice as fat a tube. It's about twice as long. The entire unit stands 
twice as tall on its pier and German mount! 
    From my experience with such scopes, the eight-inch (only the lens 
was changed at CAS; the mechanical parts stayed the same) reaches when 
aimed at the zenith 3 to 4 meters tall. A sixteen-incher attains some 
7 to 8 meters in height! The pier and mount for the larger unit is 
greatly more massive than that for the smaller. 
    Altho one could misjudge between an 8 and 8-1/2 inch scope, 
there's no way he could goof between an 8 and 16 inch model. If some 
one standing next to a 16-inch refractor mistakenly said this is an 8-
inch scope, I would ask if he meant the guide scope. 
    Ventre noted in our correspondence that he and Dyk inspected the 
16-inch Clark and that Dyk was fully appreciative of its bulk and 
volume. Yet, he never said anything about a 'sixteen-inch' Clark scope 
nor showed, as best as I can recall, showed any pictures of it. 
    None of the delegates who spoke with me later caught Dyk's error 
of size or corrected me about the wrong facility suffering the theft. 
    Suppose I, for some reason, missed seeing a Dyk picture of the 16-
inch Clark at CO. Other delegates would have caught it and ask, 'Are 
you sure that's only 8-inch in aperture?' or 'Why did they diaphragm 
it so severely?'. Nothing of this kind was expressed by anyone.  
    In fact, as at early March of 2006, only John Ventre gave the 
suitable amendments necessary to resolve the discrepancy.