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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989

Book Reviews

volumes in this series in paper. Until then, it seems likely that only the
better-equipped libraries will hold Tate's commendable production.
University of Texas at Austin BRIAN C. HOSMER
Big and Bright: A History of the McDonald Observatory. By David S. Evans
and J. Derral Mulholland. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986.
Pp. xii+ 186. Preface, map, tables, photographs, epilogue, appen-
dices, references, index. $19.95, cloth; $9.95, paper.)
This brief account of the origin and early years of one of the world's
largest university-operated observatories is a remarkable accomplish-
ment. It is an "insider's" history-both authors have done major work
at the McDonald-yet solidly based on a great deal of scholarly re-
search. Embellished with just enough anecdotal matter to assure lively
reading, the study is properly appreciative of the dedicated work of
those responsible for the successes of the observatory without degener-
ating into hero worship. The authors also do a good job of integrating
technical accounts with social detail.
The observatory was made possible by a bequest from William John-
son McDonald, a Paris, Texas, businessman. The account quickly moves
through the legal battle over McDonald's will to focus upon the agree-
ment worked out in 1932 between the University of Chicago and the
University of Texas to operate the facility jointly. This agreement, char-
acterized as "little short of revolutionary" (p. 29), was an early example
of "consortium 'big science'" (p. ix).
If there is a single hero in this story, it would have to be Otto Struve,
director of Yerkes and McDonald observatories from the beginning of
the collaboration through the 1940s, when that collaboration func-
tioned as the most important contribution to the foundations of mod-
ern astronomy. The actual details of bringing such a complex organiza-
tion as a modern observatory into operation on a remote site would
surely have overwhelmed a man of less dedication, but Struve was even
able to keep scientific work going during the construction period and
the several years' delay in getting delivery of the 82-inch mirror. The
authors properly devote a great deal of attention to him and his mana-
gerial style. After an analysis of the scientific work during the "Struve
period" (1939-1950), the book sketches in developments of the next
decade and closes with an epilogue summarizing the new directions
and activities of the observatory after work began with the 107-inch
telescope in 1961.
If this study could have been expanded, I would have liked for it to
include more detail concerning the impact of the observatory upon the


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 3, 2016.

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