Doug Warshaw and I were talking the other day about books on optics and telescope design, and I thought that a list of books that I’ve found to be above average might be of interest to other Lowbrows, especially if it had brief descriptions of the book’s contents. Most of the books are available for perusal at the University of Michigan’s Engineering Library in the Media Union on North Campus. You don’t need a U of M Library card to look at them. You can buy them through Border’s or Willman-Bell. The list isn’t in any particular order.
This is the best general book on optical engineering that I know of. It covers the whole field of optical engineering with clear, understandable text and illustrations. This is not a book on theoretical optics, but describes how light can be utilized and the devices that accomplish this.
If there’s a topic you’re interested in, and Smith doesn’t have something to say about it, you’re going to have to search a whole lot harder to find it elsewhere.
Incidentally, this is the first book I ever bought. I was 15 years old, working in a city library with all the books there at my disposal, and this was the one book I wanted to own.
This remarkable book covers telescope optics; reflectors, refractors, eyepieces, field correctors, image aberrations, manufacturing tolerances, optical calculations and telescope design. It even comes with a program that lets you design telescopes and lenses, and raytrace optics of your own design. And even though the program is a little clunky, it works.
One nice feature of this book is the raytrace diagrams the authors included (made with the program that comes with the book) when they discuss different telescopes. Ever wonder how the images at the edge of a Schmidt-Cass field compare to those in a Tri-Schiefspiegler? This book shows you.
These books were written in the 20’s and 30’s in a style that always gives me the impression that I’ve just had a conversation with an old friend. Probably the only books in literature that can rival these are the laboratory practice books by John Strong.
There are many other books on optics that deserve an Honorable Mention, but my experience is that most of them use an entire book to add only one or two additional facts to my body of knowledge, or that they are concerned with aspects of optics that don’t concern me. Your own interests may cover a wider range than the above books do, and if the editor of this newsletter gets a request for info on any particular subject, or on some book that I’ve left out, I can recommend and review a wider list in the future.
These books, however, certainly deserve a place on the 100 Parsec Shelf of your library.