28 January 2018 at 12:05 am #573930
I have just heard from Crayford Manor House Astronomical Society that John Wall died on Saturday.
For those that don’t know, John was the inventor of the Crayford focuser along with many other things astronomical. He also built a 30-inch, f/12 refractor at his home in Dartford using the lights on the Queen Elizabeth bridge to demonstrate its optics. John also built the 24-inch telescope that CMHAS had installed at the Manor House until they left to move to their new location a few years ago. That is now at the Lime Tree Observatory near York.
I was lucky enough to know John when he was at Crayford and as Papers Secretary I would receive papers from him describing large (and possibly slightly impractical) telescopes some of which actually got built. John definitely didn’t do conventional!28 January 2018 at 12:00 pm #579005Gary PoynerParticipant
Thanks for passing that sad news on Nick. I’d known him for many years, and always enjoyed our chats at Winchester.
Gary28 January 2018 at 4:46 pm #579006Mike FrostParticipant
So sorry to hear the news of John’s passing. He was a member of my home society, Coventry & Warwickshire AS, in recent years, and regaled us with stories of the telescopes he had built.28 January 2018 at 5:32 pm #579008Nick HewittParticipant
Ah, a great pity. One of the great characters of amateur astronomy. Fun to chat with, and indeed travel with (the 2001 eclipse in Zimbabwe wasespecially memorable).28 January 2018 at 9:06 pm #579009Stewart MooreParticipant
Very sad news. A great character and always fun and interesting to chat to. He must have used hundreds of feet of dexion angle in his constructions – not to mention Reliant Robin back axles!5 February 2018 at 5:09 pm #579061Alan DowdellParticipant
Sad to read the passing of John. For me he was one of the associations greats. He was for so many years at Winchester Weekends the star of the show. Each year we looked forward to hear about the next great telescope he was making.I also have great memories of visiting his house and workshops some years ago. To some it would be a scrap yard , to John anything could be turned into a telescope.I am proud owner of a very early focusing mount which I keep in pride of place at home. I will raise a glass to him at the next Winchester.6 February 2018 at 8:12 am #579065David SwanParticipant
He was clearly a talented and well-liked man. I have just read his obit in the Times – Nick is quoted directly from his forum post.6 February 2018 at 2:02 pm #579069Martin MobberleyParticipant
Just found these old pics of John on my PC. Taken by someone at Crayford if I recall……
I think they say it all…John with his 32″ and 42″.
What a character!
Martin7 February 2018 at 12:47 pm #579080
Thanks Martin. You can certainly see where all the Dexion went! I wonder what his neighbours in Dartford though of it all?7 February 2018 at 1:20 pm #579081Stewart MooreParticipant
He was also a great enthusiast for electrostatic generators and built a very large (what else!) Wimshurst machine. I think he talked about this a Winchester once.7 February 2018 at 8:47 pm #579084
So they have. Here’s a link to the Times obit although it is behind a paywall so you’ll need to register or be a Times subscriber to read it.7 February 2018 at 10:59 pm #579087
Those were the days. We made a Wimshurst Machine at school a long time ago and used it for all sorts of interesting experiments. I wouldn’t want to fill in the risk assessment for one of those now. Just think of all of those volts.7 February 2018 at 11:01 pm #579085Steve KnightParticipant
Wish I’d met him.
For those of you who do not want to make Murdoch any richer here is the obituary.7 February 2018 at 11:03 pm #579088Steve KnightParticipant
Sorry, did not upload. Tries again.8 February 2018 at 9:08 am #579089
That’s a really good tribute to John.8 February 2018 at 9:21 am #579091Gary PoynerParticipant
I saw that large Wimshurst machine when a friend and I visited him in 1980. It was enormous, and I think he had been warned by the local council not to switch it on! He had a smaller one too (his front room was a physics lab), which worked brilliantly.
Gary9 February 2018 at 3:50 pm #579098Denis BuczynskiParticipant
Thanks for posting this published obituary of John, it was an interesting read about a very interesting man.Sad that he is no longer with us.
Denis9 February 2018 at 5:10 pm #579099Grant PrivettParticipant
How much did these weigh? Thats astonishing.12 February 2018 at 11:09 am #579109Martin MobberleyParticipant
Just found some fascinating stuff that John sent me many years ago. If time allows I’ll try and dig out some more. This was John’s unique solution to making a Newtonian tube rotate, his sketch and the reflector he built. The mirror end rests on a ball and socket which takes the load when the tube clamp is slackened off……
Martin18 February 2018 at 11:42 pm #579140
Here are a few screengrabs from the infamous Channel 4 documentary “Earth Calling Basingstoke” featuring some of John’s telescopes and his mirror grinding machine. The whole documentary is on Youtube. It was not amateur astronomy’s finest hour.
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