Telescopes of Vermont is a small family company founded by Fred Schleipman, an inventor and engineer from Norwich, Vermont. He was driven by a passion to reintroduce to the world a most unusual telescope. Originally designed in 1923 by Russell Porter of MIT and Springfield, Vermont, the Porter Garden Telescope was conceived as both a superb optical instrument and a beautiful Art Nouveau botanical sculpture. An original resides in the Smithsonian Institution. George Manacek, whose work is the scholarly study of antique scientific instruments, claims that it is the most pure marriage of art and science he has ever witnessed, and that neither role is compromised by the other. It’s beauty compelled Schleipman to convince a small museum in Vermont that he could improve on the telescope and reintroduce it to the world. After five years of engineering and the integration of many refinements, he has done so. Hence the little telescope which inspired the design of the 200 inch Hale telescope at Mt. Palomar in San Diego was reborn. Schleipman, a spry 92, is still very involved in the production of each unit.
The Porter Garden Telescope is the clever and sculptural reconfiguration of the more familiar reflecting telescope which is housed in a tube with an eyepiece projecting from the top. In the case of the Porter Garden Telescope, the tube has become a bronze ginger leaf which holds the optics in place. The optics lift out in seconds, leaving a graceful installation which can reside outdoors permanently as a distinctive centerpiece to a garden. With the optics removed, it is also a novel sundial: when the blade is pointed at the sun, the correct time is indicated on the hour ring, and it becomes a wonderful educational tool for demonstrating the relationship of time and solar position. Serial numbered and limited, it has the cachet of rarity, and is an heirloom imbued with hand wrought craftsmanship. Over four hundred hours of custom work are lavished on each telescope. It will appeal to those who desire a singular piece of functional art, it will spark conversations and delight owners and their guests, and it will instill a certain awe when trained on the moon, the moons of Jupiter or the rings of Saturn. Currently there are twenty five in the world. On www.gardentelescopes.com, there are two didactic videos, one on the home page, from CBS “Sunday Morning”, and another under “In The News” on NECN’s “New England Dream House”, above the picture of Queen Elizabeth.
We have recently introduced a new piece, a sundial bird bath which can be customized for a property, individual, etc. It was inspired by the graceful botanical Art Nouveau design of the telescope. It is also of bronze and is given a verdigris patina. Dimensions and textures were suggested and approved by ornithologists at Harvard University and the Mass Audubon Society. The pedestal matches that of the telescope, thereby creating an opportunity for symmetry and visual echoes in a garden. www.birdbathsundial.com.