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Dmitry Dmitrievich Maksutov - Famous Inventor

: Dmitry Dmitrievich Maksutov
: 23-April-1896
: 12-August-1964
: Ukraine
: Cadet school,Military Engineering College-St. Petersburg
: Optical engineer and Amateur astronomer

About Inventor

Dmitry Dmitrievich Maksutov who lived between(1896 - 1964) was a Russian / Soviet optical engineer and amateur astronomer. He is best known as the inventor of the Maksutov telescope.

Early Life and Studies

After graduating from cadet school in 1913, Maksutov enrolled in the Military Engineering College, located in the czarist capital of St. Petersburg.

When the First World War broke out in August of the following year, classes were canceled and the students were sent to the frontlines to fight. Maksutov served with distinction in the Caucasus as a radio operator, winning promotion to the rank of lieutenant.

In 1916 he volunteered for flight school, where he cheated death during a training flight as his flimsy aircraft disintegrated around him. He miraculously survived a fall from an altitude of more than 200 feet, but the serious injuries he sustained required prolonged hospitalization. Maksutov was discharged from the hospital soon after the 1917 revolution and almost immediately attempted to emigrate to the United States via China. Yet he made it only as far as Harbin (Manchuria) before his infirmities and a lack of funds forced him to turn back.

The ravages of World War I and the Russian Revolution in 1917 led to difficult times for the Maksutov family. Political tensions had a far greater impact on the other male members of his immediate family. His mother remained in Odessa, but Maksutov's father and younger brother, Konstantin, who had fought the Communists during the Revolution, fled to France. Later they would emigrate to the United States and eventually settle in Long Island, New York. Maksutov's father subsequently served in the merchant marine and died in 1958. Konstantin took up chemical engineering and lived until 1987. Since Dmitri's grandmother was buried in the Alaskan town of Sitka, three generations of Maksutovs are buried on American soil.

Life in Optics

In the early 1900s Dmitri's interest in astronomy was awakened by a gift from his grandfather  a small, 150 year-old, mahogany-and-brass Dollond refractor. He longed for a more powerful telescope, but commercial instruments from Germany were prohibitively expensive. So, at age 15, the budding astronomer decided to build one from scratch. He ground and polished a 7-inch mirror, fabricated a Newtonian telescope around it, and began to make regular observations. He was soon elected a member of the Russian Astronomical Association, and the first of his many articles about mirror making appeared in the organization's journal. In 1919 Maksutov traveled to the central Siberian city of Tomsk, where he enrolled in the Tomsk Technical Institute.

The ravages of Russia's civil war had resulted in a severe shortage of teachers, so despite his student status Maksutov taught classes in physics while continuing to study optics. One of his professors noticed his extraordinary talent and spoke highly of him to Dmitri Rozhdestvensky, the founding director of the State Optical Institute in St. Petersburg  an organization better known by its acronym, GOI. Accepting an offer to join the staff there, he worked under the supervision of wellknown optician Aleksander Chikin, the author of a popular book on mirror making who is remembered today as one of the "patron saints" of Russian amateur telescope makers.

But Maksutov's initial tenure at GOI was short. He mistakenly believed his entire family had emigrated, but early in 1921 (the year in which he also married Tatiana Nazarova) he received a letter from his mother, who was still living in Odessa.

He soon left St. Petersburg to join her, supporting his family by making optics for Odessa Observatory in a home workshop as well as teaching classes in mathematics and physics. In 1927 he took a job at the Odessa State Physical Institute, where he quickly organized a workshop to manufacture telescopes for schools. Within a year he turned out a hundred wellmade 5½-inch Newtonian telescopes, all with firstclass optics, ground and polished by hand.

In February 1930 Odessa was subjected to a purge and, like hundreds of other suspected enemies of the Soviet regime, Maksutov was arrested. He later described the ordeal as the worst experience of his life  there were no trials, and every other randomly chosen suspect was shot. But fate smiled on Maksutov once more, and he was released in the middle of March. Three months later he accepted an invitation to return to GOI in St. Petersburg, where he once again started making astronomical optics in a workshop that would become the Soviet Union's most important training ground for opticians.

This proved a fertile time for optical innovation. Unaware of the research of George Ritchey, Karl Schwarzschild and Andre Couder, Maksutov independently produced his own aplanatic reflecting telescope designs. This constituted one of his greatest theoretical works and was published in the GOI bulletin in 1932. He also developed a new method of testing the figure of mirror surfaces, similar to the famous Ronchi test, that used a grating with curved rather than straight lines. This approach was identical to the null test independently invented many years later by Eric Mobsby in England , among others. He also strove to improve the traditional Foucault knife-edge test. Although Maksutov published dozens of valuable articles describing these innovative techniques, his work remained all but unknown to foreign opticians due to the effective isolation of the U.S.S.R. prior to World War II.

Maksutov's first major undertaking was the 32-inch objective lens for the large refractor at Pulkovo Observatory near St. Petersburg. This instrument had been ordered from the famous English firm of Grubb Parsons in 1913. All the components except the objective lens had been delivered by 1926, and after several unsuccessful attempts to procure a satisfactory objective lens in England and Germany, the decision was made to produce one at GOI.

But the project suffered many setbacks. Repeated failures to cast a blank for the crown-glass element were exacerbated by Maksutov's strained relations with his co-workers arising from their perception of him as a "class enemy" owing to his titled background. These difficulties ultimately resulted in his arrest in 1937. Officials accused him of sabotage, long delays in selecting the crown element of the 32-inch objective, and spying for Japan. Although these accusations were utterly baseless, Maksutov spent nine months in prison and did not complete the objective until 1946. By then the era of large refractors had long since passed, and this superb lens simply became a relic displayed in Pulkovo Observatory's museum.

During the 1930s Maksutov's opticians found time to produce a wide variety of extremely challenging optical systems, including fast apochromatic objectives, aspheric projection lenses, two 14-inch f/2 Schmidt cameras, a 16-inch aplanatic reflector for Byurakan Observatory in Armenia, and a 20-inch horizontal solar telescope for Pulkovo. Maksutov's work was not limited to practical optics. He also applied for more than 10 patents, and published several articles and books including: "Aberration-free reflective systems and methods of their control" (1932); "Shadow methods of testing optical systems" (1934); "Optical flats, testing and manufacturing"(1937).

Optical Legacy

After the war, Maksutov returned to GOI, where the first three astronomical meniscus telescopes were completed. One early model, designated MTM-1, was an 8-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain with a Nasmyth focus carried on an equatorial fork mounting. More than a half century later, this instrument still looks strikingly modern. Under Maksutov's supervision, a local factory began to manufacture a 70-mm f/10 Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope equipped with two eyepieces in a revolving turret. Soon examples of this instrument could be found in every secondary school and university in the Soviet Union.

Despite his workload, Maksutov somehow managed to find the time not only to lecture at Pulkovo but also to write two textbooks, Astronomical Optics (1946) and The Manufacture and Testing of Astronomical Optics (1948). These works contain a vast amount of practical information and served as a basic guide for succeeding generations of Russian opticians. Fortunately, there are plans afoot to translate them into English.

During the late 1940s and 1950s, Maksutov oversaw the fabrication of numerous large-aperture optical systems for professional use. Today his instruments can be found at observatories throughout the former Soviet Union. These include: two 20-inch f/13.5 planetary meniscus telescopes with non-moving (Coude-type) focal positions for Pulkovo and Crimea; a 20-inch f/2.4 Meniscus camera ASI2 in Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan); a 20-inch f/4.0 Meniscus camera AZT-5 in Crimea (Ukraine); a 700mm (27.6-inch) universal meniscus telescope with dual f/3 and f/15 foci in Abastuman, (Georgia).

In 1951 he even submitted plans for a 4-meter telescope, but political forces dictated something larger than the 200-inch (5-meter) telescope atop Palomar Mountain, and eventually his team led the design effort for the 236-inch (6-meter) "Large Altazi-muth Reflector" (known by its Russian acronym, BTA) now operating high in the Caucasus Mountains.

Maksutov's best and final work is generally regarded to be the 70-centimeter- (27.6-inch-) aperture double-meniscus astrograph known as the AZT-16. This instrument was needed for fundamental astrometry, a demanding application that required a fast focal ratio and a large field free of lateral color and distortion. Maksutov employed a pair of meniscus correctors to satisfy these exacting parameters. Deteriorating health left him little time to finish this project.

He did finish the optics, though the entire instrument was not completed until late 1964, a few months after his death on August 12th. The AZT-16 entered service four years later on Cerro Roble in the Chilean Andes.

Awards Received by Inventor

Stalin Prize (1941, 1946)

Two Orders of Lenin (1945,1958)

Order The Badge of Honour (1943)

Grand Prix at the Expo '58 in Brussels